Over 20,000 African elephants were killed for ivory in 2013, a CITES monitoring program showed, leaving a population believed to be around 500,000. It’s hard to understand why people have such a need for the ivory.
Thai customs officials have called their latest seizure the largest of its kind in Thailand’s history.
The Thai officials found four tons of ivory worth $6 million, authorities said.
The elephant tusks were hidden in bags containing dried beans in containers originating from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Thai Customs Department said in a statement. The shipment was bound for Laos.
Thailand has always been one of the top destinations for African ivory smuggling in Asia, and there is an increasing pressure to crack down on its illegal ivory trade.
Thailand seizes 4 tons of ivory tusks from Congo:
Under the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), Thailand has been given until the end of March to take measures to close down the domestic trade in ivory, or face sanctions.
If Thailand was to face sanctions, this might affect their trade in species covered by the convention, which includes ornamental plants such as orchids.
“We consider this the biggest seizure in Thai history. We believe that this ivory was due to be sold to customers in China, Vietnam, and Thailand,” the Thai Customs Department said in a statement, wrote Reuters.
Most of the ivory that is smuggled into Thailand from other countries is turned into ornaments that are then shipped to China and Vietnam. Somchai Sujjapongse, Director-General of the Customs Department, said the ivory was discovered on April 18 when officers acted on a tip-off.
China announced a 1-year ban on the import of African ivory carvings in February, ahead of a visit by Britain’s Prince William, a vocal animal welfare activist. In January, Thailand passed new legislation to regulate and control the possession and trade of ivory.
Under the law, possession of African ivory for sale in Thailand is prohibited, Reuters said.
It seems like this issue has no end. As long as there is an ivory market, and there’s big money to be made in selling ivory, elephants will continue to die.