After a massive campaign spearheaded by the World Wildlife Foundation and backed by notable celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, the country of Thailand has agreed to put an end to the world’s largest unregulated ivory market in the world.
“We will work towards amending the national legislation with the goal of putting an end to ivory trade and to be in line with international norms,” Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said during an endangered species conference in Bangkok last weekend. “This will help protect all forms of elephants, including Thailand’s wild and domestic elephants and those from Africa.”
While the vocal support to close the legal loopholes that allow ivory sales is promising, animal rights activists are taking the news with a grain of salt – in particular because no firm timeline has been set for the new legislation.
“We’re thrilled to hear that Prime Minister Shinawatra took this opportunity to seize the global spotlight and pledge to end ivory trade in her country. But the fight to stop wildlife crime and shut down Thailand’s ivory markets is not over. Prime Minister Shinawatra now needs to provide a timeline for this ban and ensure that it takes place as a matter of urgency, because the slaughter of elephants continues,” said Carlos Drews head of WWF’s delegation to CITES.
According to the WWF, a petition calling on Thailand to ban its ivory trade was signed by nearly 1.5 million since its launch in late February.
“Illegal wildlife trade is the most urgent threat facing species like tigers, rhinos and elephants,” wrote DiCaprio in a letter to WWF supporters. “These animals are being killed every day to feed an escalating demand for their body parts. Whole populations are at risk of being wiped out if we don’t take immediate action to shut down this illicit trade. As a key step, I am joining WWF and others calling on Thailand’s government to show leadership on elephant conservation by shutting down its ivory market before the country hosts a meeting of 177 nations on wildlife trade in March 2013.”
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