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Thailand Given Deadline to Shut Down Its Illegal Ivory Market

Thailand faces trade sanctions if it does not take measures to shut down its domestic trade in illegal elephant ivory by March 2015. The announcement made today at an international meeting on wildlife trade follows news of a report finding the sale of ivory has tripled in Thailand – already the world's largest unregulated market for illegal ivory – since it pledged to eradicate its domestic ivory market in 2013.

Governments at a meeting of the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) requested that Thailand enact legislation to protect elephants by stemming the trade of illegal African ivory in the country. CITES also requested that Thailand implement a registration system for domestic ivory and ivory traders. Sanctions could impact Thailand’s trade in species covered by the convention, including ornamental plants, such as orchids, and reptile leather.

“World Wildlife Fund commends governments at CITES, especially the US delegation, for holding Thailand accountable for failing to deliver on its promise last year to shut down its ivory market. Shutting down the world’s largest unregulated ivory market in Thailand is crucial to stopping the global elephant poaching crisis. Lack of enforcement in Thailand has likely contributed to the tripling of ivory sales in the country and its rank as the world’s largest unregulated market for illegal ivory. Today’s decision is a critical move that is needed to eliminate this current loophole that allows ivory to be smuggled into the country and continue to feed the demand for elephant ivory,” said Leigh Henry, Senior Policy Advisor, Wildlife Conservation Program, World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Current Thai law allows ivory from domesticated Thai elephants to be sold legally. However, the current law makes it impossible to track the origin of ivory, making it possible for African ivory to be laundered through Thai shops. Only by closing the domestic trade in ivory can Thailand help eliminate the threat to African elephants.