Campaigns against ivory trade gather pace
Thai and foreign actors and activists are building up pressure on Thailand to its part in the world ivory trade which, they say, puts elephants in Africa in danger of extinction.
- Published: 19/02/2013 at 06:33 PM
- Newspaper section: topstories
Leonardo DiCaprio has called on Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to implement a total ban on the ivory trade in Thailand.
Speaking at the launch of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) "Hands Off My Parts" campaign in Washington, the 38-year-old star of Titanic demanded that the Thai government ban all ivory trade.
The publicity campaign comes just ahead of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), which will be held at Queen Sirikit National Convention Center from March 3-14.
"Illegal wildlife trade is the most urgent threat facing species like tigers, rhinos and elephants," said DiCaprio at the US press conference. "These animals are being killed every day to feed an escalating demand for their body parts.
Leonardo DiCaprio joins a call on Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to implement a total ban on ivory trade in Thailand. (AP Photo)
"... I am joining WWF and others calling on Thailand's government to show leadership on elephant conservation by shutting down its ivory market before the country hosts a meeting of 177 nations on wildlife trade in March 2013."
In Bangkok, actors and singers including Kemmanij "Pancake" Jimakorn, Palmy, Tattoo Colour, Darling and Kang Kamikaze will join WWF-Thailand in a campaign Thursday to gather signatures for a petition urging the ivory ban. The petition will be sent to the prime minister.
The petition reportedly has 500,000 signatures and organisers hope to reach one million by next week, said Preeyapa Temchroen, a spokeswoman for WWF-Thailand.
"We are greatly concerned about the record levels of elephant poaching in Africa," the petition reads. "Demand for illegal ivory products could drive the species to extinction in Africa, and Thailand's elephants could be next. You can save them. We urge you to ban all ivory trade in Thailand to give elephants their best chance of survival."
The letter will be forwarded to Ms Yingluck on Feb 27, Ms Preeyapa said.
The "Hands Off My Parts" campaign aims to bring awareness to the rhinos, tigers and elephants that are being killed for their skins, bones, tusks, horns and other body parts.
Much of the trade is fuelled by rising demand from Asia's increasingly wealthier population, especially from China, with Thailand a hub for the trade in illegal wildlife and animal parts.
DiCaprio has take a break in his acting career after filming Django Unchained, The Great Gatsby and The Wolf of Wall Street in the last two years. The Beach star plans to spend his free time working for environmental causes.
"I would like to improve the world a bit," he told German tabloid Bild. "I will fly around the world doing good for the environment."
Thai law forbids trade in ivory from African elephants but the WWF claims the kingdom is home to the biggest unregulated ivory market in the world.
Exploiting a legal loophole that permits the sale of ivory from Thailand's domesticated elephants, criminals are getting away with selling massive amounts of illegally poached African ivory alongside legal ivory in the country, the WWF said in a statement.
"The only way to prevent Thailand from contributing to elephant poaching is to ban all ivory sales," Janpai Ongsiriwittaya, campaign leader of WWF-Thailand, said in January.
Theerapat Prayurasiddhi, deputy director-general of the National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation Department, denied the claim by WWF-Thailand.
"I would like to say that Thailand never allows imports of African elephant ivory," he said. "The ivory that the carvers and traders can use must be from domesticated elephants only."
Mr Theerapat declined to support the ban demanded by activists, saying that use of some elephant parts are part of Thai culture and state officials will do their best to control the related business.
According to TRAFFIC, the largest seizures of illicit ivory was in 2012 when more than 5,000 raw tusks were seized by customs officials around the world. In Thailand, authorities seized 23 tonnes of raw tusks, the wildlife trade monitoring network said.
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