By Dan Levin
The prime minister of Thailand pledged Sunday to end the nation’s ivory trade, responding to growing calls from international wildlife groups desperate to stop the slaughter of African elephants.
In a speech at the opening of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species conference in Bangkok, the prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, promised to amend the kingdom’s laws, which critics say include loopholes that have allowed smugglers to ferry African tusks to Thai markets and onward, often to China, the world’s top destination for illegal ivory. Thailand is believed to be the second-biggest market for illicit elephant tusks.
“We will work towards amending the national legislation with the goal of putting an end to ivory trade and to be in line with international norms,” Ms. Yingluck said. “This will help protect all forms of elephants, including Thailand’s wild and domestic elephants and those from Africa.”
The announcement, which pleased environmentalists, places additional pressure on China to halt its legal ivory trade, a thriving industry that experts say has helped fuel the highest rate of African elephant poaching in decades.
Since the beginning of 2012, conservationists say, more than 32,000 elephants have been killed by poachers. Although some of the ivory ends up in Thailand, much of it is smuggled to China, where it is carved into the figurines, chopsticks and other trinkets coveted by that country’s newly affluent consumers. More....