Thai government encouraged to do more to stop ivory trade

Thai government encouraged to do more to stop ivory trade

A LARGE model elephant named "Boon-Chuay" was presented to Natural Resources and Environment Minister General Dapong Ratanasuwan by WWF Thailand (World Wide Fund for Nature) on Thursday.

The gift follows the "Chor Chang Can Save Elephants" campaign (Chor Chang Chuay Chang) and was a gesture of thanks to recognise Thai people's love of elephants and support for efforts being made to protect the world's elephants.

"Boon-Chuay" is a 2-metre-tall wooden elephant with a "skin" made of a selection of pictures from more than a million Thais who participated in an innovative public-awareness campaign launched by WWF Thailand in January.

More than a million people - including celebrities and journalists - symbolically removed the Thai letter chor-chang from posts on social media - as well as news programme titles and anchor names while on air for one full day - to reinforce the message that Thais love elephants and condemn them being killed for ivory.

This campaign, which helped increase awareness on how demand for ivory is driving elephants to extinction, came at a good time, as Thailand added the African elephant to its list of protected species.

The move gave global efforts to tackle the surge in elephant poaching a much-needed boost in Thailand - a country identified as one of the largest unregulated markets for ivory items.

Dapong said Thailand was keen to solve problems with the illegal ivory trade and stop smuggling of ivory through many means.

The government also wanted to ensure continued conservation via activities to raise awareness about the crisis that African elephants face, the minister said.

Everybody 'can lend a hand'

"With the support of the Thai people we can work together to ensure elephants have a future in Thailand and around the world," he said.

It is estimated that more than 20,000 African elephants are killed each year for their ivory - with much of this ending up in Thailand, where it is turned into jewellery and trinkets.

Thailand has been recognised as one of the world's largest ivory markets, but the government took key steps recently to tackle the illegal ivory trade by passing an amendment to the Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act.

This will prohibit the import, export, trade, and sale of ivory from African elephants when it comes into force next month.

However, WWF called for a number of other critical reforms to be enacted, as well as stronger enforcement.

"As long as there is demand for ivory, all elephants are at risk - in Africa, throughout Asia, and in Thailand," said Yowalak Thiarachow, country director for WWF Thailand. "This campaign has united Thais from all walks of life behind the call to end the ivory trade and is shining a spotlight on the threat posed to the world's elephants by poaching.

Janpai Ongsiriwittaya, WWF Thailand's wildlife-trade campaign manager, said: "Every effort, however small, can make a difference in the fight to save elephants by helping to halt this illicit trade.

The government has a critical role to play and the presentation of Boon-Chuay to the minister today, with many images of the Thai public speaking out against killing elephants, and pledging never to buy, sell, or use products made from ivory shows the large number of people prepared to speak out on this issue.

"Ivory should be left where it is - with elephants."

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