Thailand keeps global ivory crush momentum alive

An official displays a tusk before the Philippines’ ivory stockpile crush in 2013. With momentum building for more of these events, the tide could now be turning against poachers. ©IFAW/A.HoffordThailand announced plans to destroy its stockpile of confiscated illegal ivory yesterday, becoming the eleventh country to do so.

The dominoes have been falling in rapid succession since the United States Fish & Wildlife Service crushed 6 tons of smuggled tusks and carvings in Denver, Colorado last November.

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Thailand’s action is particularly significant considering its status as both a transit nation (through which much of the world’s illegal ivory shipments pass) and a consumer nation. It also signals that cracking down on trafficking—and the corruption that it fosters—is imperative regardless of politics: With the announcement, the new Thai regime is building on the efforts of former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who had declared intentions to close down Thailand’s domestic ivory trade but was ousted by a military coup earlier this year.

In 2014 alone, Belgium (1.5 tons), Chad (1.1), France (3), China (6) and Hong Kong (1 ton, with 28 tons more planned later) have burned or crushed their stockpiles, and Thailand will scrap six more tons if all goes according to plan.

IFAW has helped to coordinate several of these crushes around the world, in an effort to reverse devastating poaching trends in Africa. These events curb consumer demand by sending a strong message that ivory is worthless and illicit, and they also eliminate the possibility that corrupt officials could steal from stockpiles (as has been alleged in certain regions) to resell on the black market.

What many people don’t realize, surprisingly, is that every piece of ivory comes from a dead elephant.

When retailers sell statues, ivory jewelry or other trinkets, they are actually helping to boost demand for these items—consumers see that some ivory is openly sold and assume it must be all right to buy, without considering the possibility that the elephant was recently killed.

With fewer than half a million African elephants remaining in the wild, and with tens of thousands being poached each year for their tusks, time is running out on this keystone species.

IFAW applauds the Thai government for this important move, and encourages other countries to take action now—by taking more decisive steps like this; we can bring African elephants back from the edge of disaster.

--PL

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Experts

Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Cynthia Moss, IFAW Elephant Expert
IFAW Elephant Expert
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
James Isiche, Regional Director, East Africa
Regional Director, East Africa
Jason Bell, Program Director, Elephants Regional Director, South Africa
Program Director, Elephants, Regional Director, South Africa
Peter Pueschel, Director, International Environmental Agreements
Director, International Environmental Agreements
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Regional Director, South Asia