Thailand lauded for war on ivory smugglers

Thailand lauded for war on ivory smugglers

Thailand has been praised for its achievement in tackling the illegal ivory trade as mandated by Cites, according to the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP).

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) is an international agreement between governments that aims to monitor the trade of endangered species, and Thailand is one of 183 members.

"This is good news. Thailand does not have to follow the National Ivory Action Plan (NIAP) action plan anymore, but it does not mean that we will lower our guard," said Somkiat Soontornpitakkool, director of the Wildlife and Flora Conservation Division at DNP.

According to Cites, Thailand -- along with China, Kenya, the Philippines and Uganda -- will no longer have to follow their national action plans because of their outstanding performances in dealing with the illegal ivory trade.

NIAP is a measure that the Thai government pledged to execute in order to deal with the illegal trade of ivory. In 2016, Thailand and several other states were placed by Cites under the "Primary Concern" list due to the rampant smuggling of unprocessed ivory from Africa.

If Thailand failed to solve the problem, it faced the possibility of being delisted as a member of Cites, which may then have resulted in economic losses from diminished flora and fauna trade.

Since then, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has declared a war against poaching, which resulted in implementation of NIAP to crack down on the trade of illegal ivory.

The African elephant is listed as a protected species under the Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act BE 2535, which provides a legal basis for prosecution.

Under NIAP, the government also requires owners of ivory items to register them with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. Over 500,000 kilogrammes of ivory have been registered.

The National Council for Peace and Order has also ordered authorities to collect the DNA of all domesticated elephants to help ensure that none are killed for commercial purposes.

However, an informed official source told Bangkok Post that Cites is now concerned about tigers and other big cats being displayed in private zoos across Thailand, as there have been claims that tigers in several zoos have been procured illegally.

Last week, the DNP's Forest Hawk task force examined privately-owned zoos in Chon Buri, Phetchaburi and Ubon Ratchathani province and found no irregularities.

Based on DNP's figures, there are 1,464 tigers living in private zoos, while 182 tigers live in state-owned zoos.

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