Thai elephant owners join call to end ivory trade in Thailand
Some of Thailand's most influential elephant owners -- those who presumably benefit most from the Thai ivory trade -- have joined WWF in calling on the Thai prime minister to shut down the country's ivory market.
Trade in ivory from Thai elephants is legal within the country, but the market is so poorly regulated that Thailand has become a major black market for African ivory that is poached and smuggled into the country illegally. Africa's elephant populations are being decimated by the worst poaching rates in two decades.
Operators of some of Thailand's largest elephant camps released a joint statement to support WWF’s worldwide petition demanding Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra ban all ivory trade in Thailand because of the massive amounts of poached ivory being sold in Thai shops.
Veterinarian Preecha Wongkham of the Friends of the Asian Elephant Foundation remarked that all elephant camps depend on living elephants for their livelihoods, not sales of tusks from dead elephants. By allowing Thailand to serve as an international transit point for ivory trafficking, he said, the government is tarnishing the country's reputation and threatening the welfare of domestic elephants by stimulating demand.
Mae Sa Elephant Camp’s Veterinarian Ronnachit Rungsri said a rigorous and watertight registration scheme should be put in place for all elephants in Thailand. He added that the majority of elephants in the country are wild caught and illegally kept.
Under Thai law, registered retailers can sell ivory from domesticated elephants. Due to this legal loophole, illegal African ivory is being openly sold in upscale boutiques that often cater to unsuspecting tourists. According to domesticated elephant research, the population of 1,500 domesticated elephants could not possibly have supplied the ivory sold in Thai shops in the past decade. With ivory carvings and trinkets widely available in most major cities in Thailand, the scale of illicit activities is staggering.
The elephant camps joining WWF in calling for a shutdown of the Thai ivory market include Mae Sa, Mae Ta Man, Mae Tang, Elephant Nature Park, Forestry Industrial Organization, Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE) foundation and Bann Kwan Chang.