News / Asia

Illicit Ivory Sales Booming in Bangkok

Ivory bracelets on sale in Tha Phrachan market, Thailand. (Courtesy TRAFFIC)
Ivory bracelets on sale in Tha Phrachan market, Thailand. (Courtesy TRAFFIC)

The sale of ivory products is booming in Bangkok, according to a new study.

The number of items in shops in the Thai capital has nearly tripled in the past year-and-a-half. And the number of outlets - primarily targeting Chinese tourists - has steeply risen.

According to the study conducted by the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, the quantity exceeds the supply legally available under a 75-year-old Thai law allowing sales of tusks from domesticated Asian elephants.

“It’s not illegal to sell ivory in Thailand so it is quite open," said Naomi Doak, TRAFFIC’s coordinator for the Greater Mekong region who authored the report. "We just went around to each of the identified retail outlets and identified the type of products they were selling. Sometimes it’s chopsticks. Sometimes small carvings of animals. Sometimes quite large carvings of animals, lots of bangles, and beads and bracelets. We counted and estimated the number of each of those different products.”

No ivory registration system

Because Thailand has no ivory registration system in place, it is not possible to trace the lucrative product. And that, according to the TRAFFIC monitoring networks, allows a loophole for laundering illegal ivory from African elephants into the Thai marketplace.

Previous Thai civilian governments have pledged to end the country’s domestic ivory trade but it’s unclear how those pledges will be honored following the May 22 military coup.

In the meantime, Doak says the illegal trade continues.

“You can’t discount the political situation as affecting the speed of their action on this issue," she said. "But, unfortunately, the poachers aren’t slowing down because of political situations. They’re marching on and elephants are still being killed at unsustainable levels.”

Royal Thai Police deputy spokesman, Col. Krisana Pattanachareon, says Thai authorities will eventually make good on their pledge.

“I’m a bit optimistic because if we really get on to it, although it will take a long time to solve the problem, but surely we will get there one day,” he said.

Lucrative illicit trade

The police colonel says Thailand is caught in the middle of a lucrative illicit global trade.

Ivory objects for sale on display in a Thailand shop. (Courtesy TRAFFIC)Ivory objects for sale on display in a Thailand shop. (Courtesy TRAFFIC)
x
Ivory objects for sale on display in a Thailand shop. (Courtesy TRAFFIC)
Ivory objects for sale on display in a Thailand shop. (Courtesy TRAFFIC)

“We are talking about a very complicated issue here as Thailand is not the originating country and it is not the destination country either," Krisana said. "It’s only the traffic country.”

TRAFFIC’s Doak is calling on Thai authorities to acknowledge their nation’s ivory trade is now out of control and fueling the African Elephant poaching crisis.

“We want them to do what they’ve been saying they’ll do for at least ten years now, which is to close or to adjust and change the current legislations that would make the sale of African ivory in Thailand illegal,” she said.

The new data asserting a significant increase in ivory objects on sale in Bangkok means Thailand is certain to face increased scrutiny at next week’s meeting of the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Geneva.

Environmentalists say 20,000 of the remaining 500,000 African elephants were killed last year, primarily poached for their ivory to meet the Asian demand.

Ideal marketing spot

Thailand is an ideal spot for marketing to buyers.

More than 25 million people visit the country annually. And the number of Chinese tourists is rapidly escalating. Last year 4.7 million Chinese took trips to Thailand, a jump of nearly 70 percent from 2012.

Elephant tusks and teeth are carved into a variety of objects and shapes from ivory that sells for up to $2,000 a kilogram on the black market.

The trade in ivory goes back to ancient history. But prices have soared 50-fold in the last decade as legitimate sources grew scarcer.

Ivory was once made into numerous practical products, such as buttons, combs, hairpins and utensils and in modern times, such items as billiard balls and piano keys.

China is estimated to be the destination for as much as 70 percent of the illegal ivory market. For many modern middle class and upper class Chinese, ivory objects are believed to bring good luck or are a way to display status.

At risk

Most at risk to fuel this growing demand are the African elephants.

Their Asian cousins are smaller and none of the females and only some of the males have tusks.

Most of the remaining 30,000 Asian elephants taken from the wild are not killed but put to work or end up at zoos or as tourist attractions. Their trimmed tusks are the source of the legitimate domestic ivory.

Elephants are revered in Thailand as a component of national identity, beliefs and culture.

Those trying to preserve the pachyderms are hoping those deep emotional ties among the Thai population will help spur greater efforts here to save the largest land mammal.

 

 


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine May Be in Use by Jan.

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: alfred from: long beach
July 02, 2014 2:17 PM
boycott chinese "goods"!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid