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Record ivory seizure at Bangkok port

Thailand’s crackdown on ivory smuggling scored two important victories last week when Customs officials interdicted two shipments of illegal ivory, including the confiscation of 739 ivory tusks being smuggled through Bangkok’s port in what amounted to the largest ivory seizure ever by Thai officials.
 
The tusks totaled over four tons of ivory. Customs officials at the port found that they had originated in the Democratic Republic of Congo, passed through Malaysia and were due to be shipped to Laos. In Laos, they would be sold to buyers from China, Viet Nam and back in Thailand, according to wildlife conservation groups.
 
The second seizure took place at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok where Customs officials confiscated 65 pounds of ivory from a Vietnamese national who was traveling from Angola in West Africa to Cambodia, described as an often-used trade route for ivory smugglers by anti-smuggling groups.
 
Ivory poaching and smuggling is threatening the very existence of the African elephant and rhinoceros, and conservationists say that despite efforts to protect the animals they will soon be extinct unless demand for their ivory can be suppressed. Conservationist and environmental groups have criticized Thailand because of the amount of ivory they believe is smuggled through the Kingdom. Thailand’s geographical position, extensive transportation infrastructure and the enormous volume of people and cargo passing through the country have proven to be a difficult challenge for Customs and law enforcement officials.
 
Nonetheless, Thai law enforcement has been taking the issue of ivory and wildlife smuggling seriously and seizures and arrests have markedly increased in recent years. Thai law enforcement and Customs have been working with anti-trafficking groups such as Freeland and TRAFFIC to improve their capabilities, and are leaders within Wildlife Enforcement Network of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN-WEN).
 
“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 Chris Shepherd, Regional Director for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia.
 
Thailand has also been taking steps to prevent illegal ivory trading within its borders. For centuries, the Kingdom has had its own communities of artisans specializing in ivory carvings, jewelry and other items. Despite regulations to ensure that all ivory is sourced legally, conservationists have charged that some shops and artisans are dealing in illegal ivory.
 
The government has ordered that all holders of legal ivory declare their assets, and more than 3,000 rushed to the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation last week to register their ivory carvings, ornaments and tusks before the deadline.
 
The Department Director-General Niphon Chotiban said that since the regulation came into force in January, over 25,000 collectors had registered their ivory, documenting that their holdings had been sourced legally. He said that the cooperation from all stakeholders was beyond his expectations.
 
See the original article at Thailand Focus

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