Yingluck pressed to ban ivory trade

WASHINGTON - World Wildlife Fund (WWF) launched a global petition Monday that puts responsibility for African elephant poaching on Thailand.

Customs Department chief Prasong Poonthanes examines African ivory tusks which were seized at the cargo terminal at Suvarnabhumi airport last January. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)

The fund announced a worldwide petition demanding that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra ban the ivory trade in Thailand.

It said Ms Yingluck should use the upcoming international conference on wildlife trade in March to stop the local trade of ivory from Thai elephants.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) will be held at Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre from March 3-14.

While Thai law forbids trade in ivory from African elephants, "Criminal networks are exploiting this legal loophole and flooding Thai shops with ivory from Africa," a statement from WWF claimed.

"The only way to prevent Thailand from contributing to elephant poaching is to ban all ivory sales," said Janpai Ongsiriwittaya, campaign leader in WWF-Thailand.

The online petition at www.worldwildlife.org/ban contains a short, form letter to the prime minister which says that "Thailand's elephants could be next" and urges her:

"You can save them. We urge you to ban all ivory trade in Thailand to give elephants their best chance of survival."

Seizures by Thai customs of illegal ivory from Africa reached a record at Suvarnabhumi airport last year. Most of the illegal ivory is worked by Thai artisans, and re-exported, mostly to China.

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