Latest Tusk Burning Shows Increased Thai Government Resolve

Freeland congratulates the Thai Government for today’s destruction of over two tons of confiscated ivory, while calling for continued and expanded efforts to stamp out wildlife crime in the country.

Thailand today destroyed over two tons of confiscated ivory at the headquarters of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, with Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha himself presiding over the event. As the pile of ivory was crushed and turned to ashes, a clear message was given that Thailand was taking a serious stand against elephants being killed for ivory.

The ivory pieces that were set for destruction, came from the stockpiles of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation and Department of Customs. These are pieces of ivory for which investigations have been completed. It was crushed into small pieces with a hammer mill, following a Buddhist merit-making ceremony for the lives of the 200 elephants whose lives had been lost. A Brahmin merit-making ceremony was also held asking the gods for forgiveness for the harm that humans had inflicted on the elephants. The ash remains were then transported to an industrial waste management center for incarnation, led by General Surasak Kanchanarat, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment.

“Today’s act shows that the Thai Government is taking wildlife crime more seriously,” said Steven Galster, Director of Freeland, “which is very important since Thailand has served as one of the world’s largest transit points for global wildlife trafficking. We hope the Government will now step up efforts to dismantle the syndicates that were behind the smuggling of the tusks destroyed today, and remain involved in ongoing trafficking.”

A rigorous audit of this stockpile was done earlier this month by government agencies and NGOs, including Freeland and WWF-Thailand acting as independent third party auditors. Freeland supported the destruction of Philippines’ seized ivory in June 2013, which was the first ivory destruction in Asia, leading to other destructions in the USA, China, France and Hong Kong. The Philippines was identified as a so-called ‘gang of eight’ countries with a significant role in wildlife trafficking. They range from supplier countries—Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda—to transit and consumer countries: Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and China. These eight nations were required to submit Ivory Action Plans to the CITES Secretariat, outlining how they intended to deal with their ivory-trafficking problems.

The event was attended by representatives of the Thai Government, international embassies and conservation organizations.

Apart from the destruction, 540 kilograms of ivory were also handed over to museums and educational institutes for scientific research and educational purposes, with the condition to abide by regulations introduced by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation. Recipients include Kasersart University, Mahidol University, National Science Museum, Air Force Museum and Customs Museum.

Thirty thousand elephants are killed each year in Africa and Asia for ivory, all of which ends up in the illegal wildlife trade market.