Thailand on ivory trade watch list

Bangkok (The Nation/ANN) - Thailand is now at risk from a trade ban by the international community as it has been placed on a watch list for its alleged involvement in illegal ivory.

The standing committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) last Saturday identified eight countries as being the most involved in the illegal ivory trade - Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, China and Thailand.

The watch list decision was made during the 16th conference of the parties to CITES being held in Bangkok through March 14.

Next week, the standing committee will look at a plan these countries are supposed to implement with very targeted, precise and measurable actions, according to Tom De Meulenaer, a scientific support officer of CITES's secretariat.

"The standing committee will decide which countries are failing to take this critical action," he said at a press conference.

Previously, the standing committee decided to stop all trade with Guinea as it had failed to control the illegal wildlife trade.

National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation Department's deputy director-general Theerapat Prayurasiddhi said he would submit the action plan to regulate the domestic ivory trade to the standing committee next week.

Under this plan, Thailand will step forward to register elephants in captivity and ivory shops nationwide to check the quantity of ivory and ivory products stocked and sold in the country. This measure is expected to protect all forms of elephants including Thai wild and domestic elephants or those from Africa.

Earlier, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra had announced before over 2,000 representatives of 150 countries at the conference that she would abide by the legal amendments and other measures to stop the ivory trade, in response to international calls for Thailand's help.

But her government did not have any exact time frame to end the the ivory trade.

Meanwhile, Tom Milliken, elephant and rhino programme leader of Traffic-a wildlife monitoring organisation-said he is waiting to see an exact time frame for Thailand to end the ivory trade.

"We have pointed out this problem to Thailand since 2002. Thailand has been very prominent as an unregulated ivory market. Thailand is a major player [who has us] very worried," he added.

He said consignments of illegal ivory had been transported from Africa through transited countries like Malaysia, Hong Kong, Vietnam, the Philippines and then sent to destination countries such as Thailand and China which are driving the ivory trade today-especially China.

"These two countries are recipients of the most large scale movement of ivory and this is the elephant crime that we need to address," Milliken said.

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