WWF urges Thailand, Congo, Nigeria to ban ivory trade

Some 30,000 elephants are slaughtered each year for their ivory tusks, a figure that could be reduced dramatically if Thailand, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria ban the ivory trade, the World Wildlife Fund, or WWF, said Thursday.

"Evidence shows that Thailand, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have failed repeatedly to address their rampant domestic ivory markets despite CITES rules that outlaw the unregulated sale of ivory. Under treaty rules, CITES member states can recommend that parties stop trading with non-compliant countries in the 35,000 species covered under the convention, from timbers to crocodile skins," the WWF said in a statement posted on its Web site.

Thailand has a growing ivory market based on sales to foreign tourists, the environmental group said. "Thailand can easily fix this situation by banning all ivory sales in the country, and in doing so would eliminate the need for trade sanctions," WWF Global Species Program director Carlos Drews said.

The Asian nation has a local elephant community, but most of the ivory sold in its markets comes from illegal sources.

"WWF is petitioning the Thai prime minister for an immediate ban on ivory trade. Nearly 400,000 people from Thailand and across the world who want a future for wild elephants have joined this call," Drews said.

The irony is that Bangkok will be the host city for the March 3-14 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, meeting, the WWF said.

"In Thailand, the host country for the CITES conference and one of the world's largest unregulated ivory markets, criminals are taking advantage of Thai laws allowing the sale of ivory from domestic elephants to launder massive quantities of illegal African ivory through Thai shops," the environmental group said.

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