Thailand in the spotlight over national plan to control ivory trade
Thailand’s national ivory action plan submitted on 30 September to a global wildlife trade body is unlikely to satisfy the international community’s requirements for urgent action on the country’s illegal ivory trade, says WWF.
The action plan fails to detail how either consumers or enforcement authorities will be able to verify that ivory remaining in retail trade has not been illegally imported from poached elephants, since no details are provided concerning the proposed requirements. Penalties outlined for those violating the new legislation proposed under the plan are also insufficient, failing to provide the necessary deterrent for ongoing illegal ivory trade.
WWF urges that the simplest and most effective way for Thailand to avoid global trade sanctions under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) is to shut down the domestic ivory market, that is making it possible for organized criminal syndicates to launder massive quantities of illegal ivory smuggled into the country.
“The plan Thailand submitted does not fully demonstrate the urgency of the current crisis facing the world’s elephants. As such, it puts the country at imminent risk of trade sanctions that will cost Thai industries over US$297 Million in lost revenue annually,” said Dr. Colman O Criodain, WWF’s expert on wildlife trade. “This is the moment when Thailand can show global leadership on behalf of elephants, the country’s revered national symbol, and on the issue of corruption.”
The current Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-Ocha has made clamping down on corruption and illegal logging a national priority; shutting down the ivory trade is very closely aligned to this agenda. In his most recent address to the nation, he highlighted the need to tackle illegal ivory trade.
“Under a six-month timeline imposed on the country by CITES, the current government still has an opportunity to strengthen its action plan, as long as it does so as a matter of urgency,” added Dr. O Criodain.
The Standing Committee of CITES, meeting in July this year, concluded that Thailand’s regulation of its domestic ivory markets was insufficient. The world governments who make up the Standing Committee reached this conclusion after Thailand was unable to show significant progress on its previous action plan and after an ivory market survey by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network. TRAFFIC found that the total amount of ivory available for sale far exceeded what could come from Thailand’s domesticated elephant population, and must, therefore, have come from illegally imported ivory.
Thailand was given until 30 September of this year to submit a revised action plan that would allow for the effective control of domestic trade and possession of elephant ivory, and would provide for strict penalties in cases of illegal possession or illegal domestic trade of ivory. Thailand has until 31 March 2015 to implement a robust action plan or risk sanctions that would impact the country’s lucrative commercial trade in products from other CITES-listed species, such as orchids and crocodile skins.
“The most effective way that Thailand can meet the concerns of the Standing Committee, while taking a leading role on this issue internationally, is by shutting down the country’s ivory trade. Anything less is unlikely to be enforceable, given the large quantity of illegal ivory already in circulation and the continued risk of criminal networks using the domestic market to launder illegal ivory,” added Dr. O Criodain.