Thailand destroyed more than two tons of ivory in August, sending a loud and clear message in the fight against wildlife trade.
The industrial crusher in Bangkok ground up elephant tusks, carved ivory and other trinkets – most of which came from elephants poached in Africa. Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha led the event, and was joined by government representatives, international diplomats and conservationists.
World Wildlife Fund’s Janpai Ongsiriwittaya, who played a major role in conducting an audit of the Thai ivory stockpile, says:
“Thailand’s ivory destruction is more than just a symbolic event since it follows a series of important steps that the country has taken to tackle illegal ivory trade in the past year. For too long Thailand has been exploited by wildlife criminals as both a gateway and marketplace for ivory poached in Africa and Asia. This event aligns the commitment of the Thai government and the will of the Thai people with the global priority of stopping the illegal ivory trade.”
The ivory destruction occurred after several important laws passed to combat the illegal ivory trade. Approximately 30,000 African elephants are killed each year for their ivory, which then makes its way to other countries. And for years, Thailand was home to the world’s largest unregulated ivory market. But after facing intense global pressure and potential trade sanctions under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the country is now cracking down on the issue.
This year, the Thai government passed several important laws and regulations on the trade, and implemented a National Ivory Action Plan. For it, all ivory had to be registered by April 21, which resulted in people reporting more than 220 tons of elephant ivory. In April alone, Thai Customs seized more than 7 tons of illegal African ivory. The government also declared that the African elephant is now a protected species in Thailand.
“Considerable progress has been made this year but there will be challenges ahead with implementing these new regulations, clamping down on illegal traders and reducing demand.”
But Thailand continues to send messages to the world about its determination to put an end to ivory trafficking and wildlife crime. In July, Thailand co-sponsored a historic UN General Assembly resolution to address illegal wildlife trade. And the ivory destruction in August only reinforced its stance.