Published 21 April 2015

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Thailand’s largest ivory seizure stark reminder of need for continued vigilance

Bangkok, Thailand, 21st April 2015 – Two ivory seizures in Thailand in recent days, including the nation’s largest haul ever, underscore the need for continued vigilance in countries involved along the entire illicit ivory trade chain.

Four tonnes of ivory was seized by Royal Thai Customs on Saturday after it was shipped from the Democratic Republic of Congo and passed through Port Klang in Malaysia before it was confiscated in Bangkok Port.  The shipment containing 739 tusks was destined for Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Thai Customs said in a press statement.

Last week, Royal Thai Customs at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok confiscated 29.5 kg of ivory from a Vietnamese national traveling from Angola to Cambodia, a frequent trade route for illicit ivory trade moving from Africa to Asia. 

“It is very encouraging to see Thailand make these seizures, and we congratulate the agencies involved. Thailand has shown the kind of commitment towards stopping illegal ivory trade that other countries in the region should emulate” said Dr Chris Shepherd, Regional Director for TRAFFIC  in South-East Asia. 

“It is also now critical that Thailand shares information with the countries involved in these cases to further investigations and uncover all parties involved in these illicit trade networks.”

Due to their significant involvement in the global ivory trade in recent years, Thailand, Malaysia, Viet Nam, Cambodia and Lao PDR are among several countries being subjected to a CITES oversight process to address ivory trafficking. These countries were asked to develop national ivory action plans to show how they would address a range of illegal trade problems.  

Last month, the CITES Standing Committee issued a recommendation to all Parties to suspend trade involving any CITES-listed species with Lao PDR, Nigeria and DRC after these countries failed to prepare national ivory action plans. The trade suspension recommendation was later lifted on DRC after an action plan was forthcoming.

Lao PDR has never reported making a single ivory seizure to the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS), the database of global ivory and elephant product seizures managed by TRAFFIC on behalf of the CITES Parties since 1989.

In 2014, TRAFFIC highlighted Lao PDR’s growing role in wildlife smuggling. At least nine high-value international wildlife seizures were made in 2014 where Lao PDR was implicated as the source, transit or destination country. Lao PDR itself reported no major wildlife seizures during the year.  

The latest ivory seizures in Thailand come at a time when the Thai government is preparing to enforce its Elephant Ivory Act B.E 2885 that came into force in January 2015 mandating all those in possession of ivory, from casual owners to commercial traders, to register their stocks with the government. The deadline for registration was 21st April 2015. 

“The latest enforcement action comes at a crucial time when Thailand is tightening its ivory legislation: it is essential the country maintains its vigilance against the illegal ivory trade to ensure that current efforts act as a significant deterrent to smugglers,” said Shepherd.