Massive downturn in Bangkok ivory market
In Transition: Bangkok’s ivory market includes data from 30 month surveys carried out between December 2014 and June 2016. It was unveiled today in Johannesburg during the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), where efforts to address the illegal ivory trade and the closure of domestic ivory markets are high on the agenda.
Along with 18 other countries, Thailand is in the spotlight at the conference over progress under the CITES-led National Ivory Action Plan (NIAP) process, which was initiated at the last CoP in 2013. At the time the country was considered to have the largest unregulated ivory market in the world.
“This dramatic turnaround is a market reaction to new regulations on domestic ivory and a very public commitment to law enforcement by the government,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy, Senior Programme Manager for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia.
“Thailand is an outstanding example of a country that has reacted positively to being put into a National Ivory Action Process and the huge decrease in legal ivory openly for sale on the streets is reflective of the changes propelled by CITES.”
Since being brought into the NIAP process, Thailand passed the Elephant Ivory Act to regulate domestic ivory markets and approved new regulations criminalising the sale of African elephant ivory. The transformation in Thailand’s ivory market has also come after a successful three year campaign spearheaded by WWF and TRAFFIC to highlight the connection between ivory and the plight of Africa’s elephants.
Funded by WWF, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and USAID’s Wildlife-TRAPS project, these surveys began prior to these legislative reforms and continued well after their implementation to allow an analysis of trends over time.
“While the huge drop in the number of ivory shops and ivory items for sale in Bangkok sounds positive, it is critical that law enforcement efforts continue to focus on eliminating the illegal ivory trade,” said Janpai Ongsiriwittaya, WWF-Thailand’s Wildlife Trade Campaign Lead. “Any future law enforcement and monitoring should also consider other markets in Thailand as well, including the emerging Internet market for ivory.”
A separate TRAFFIC survey into the online trade on Facebook and Instagram between June and July 2016 recorded at least 2,550 ivory products for sale on 42 sites and groups.
The Bangkok market report recommended a number of measures to enhance law enforcement, including random testing of registered ivory to ensure it is not from African elephants.
“TRAFFIC stands prepared to work with the Thai authorities to undertake continued monitoring of markets and DNA testing to ensure the highest levels of compliance with the new policy framework,” said Krishnasamy.
Tightening up regulations and tougher law enforcement are key in the short term but WWF believes that the best option for long term management is for the government to close the domestic market.
“Thailand’s ivory market is in transition. It is moving from a totally unregulated market towards a regulated one, but the authorities should go further: like China and Hong Kong, they should announce plans to phase out their domestic market,” added Ongsiriwittaya.