THE ivory trade is the commercial, often illegal trade in the ivory tusks of the hippopotamus, walrus, narwhal, mammoth, and most commonly, African and Asian elephants.
This “antique” has been traded for hundreds of years by people in regions such as Greenland, Alaska, and Siberia.
Ivory was formerly used to make piano keys and other decorative items because of the white color it presents when processed. In the 1980s, the piano industry abandoned ivory as a key-covering material.
Softer ivory from East Africa and southern Africa was traded for souvenirs, jewelry, and trinkets.
The global ivory trade and the African elephant poaching crisis have remained a key wildlife conservation issue for decades. The threat of poachers and the dramatic loss of habitat has caused a decline in the number of elephants roaming the plains of various destinations in the world.
In the last 100 years, the decrease in wild elephants has dropped 90 percent because governments are not doing enough to put a stop to the ivory trade, among other reasons.
Acknowledging this rapid decline, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has announced its support for the World Wildlife Federation-Thailand (WWF-Thailand) on the implementation of its ongoing “Travel Ivory Free” campaign in Thailand to change tourists’ buying behavior.
“I urge tourists to stop buying ivory in Thailand and be a part of putting an end to the ivory trade,” TAT Governor Mr. Yuthasak Supasorn said.
“Instead opt for alternative souvenir choices; such as handicrafts made by local communities in line with the global trend on sustainable tourism. And in the process become a partner in helping to improve the standard of living in local Thai communities.”
Mr. Yuthasak reiterated that buying ivory in Thailand is against the law and any tourists caught with ivory items could face a potential penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment or fines of up to THB one million or both.
The WWF launched the “Travel Ivory Free” campaign in Thailand in early 2019, working to dissuade potential buyers via social media in real-time as they travel around active ivory markets in Thailand emphasizing that it is illegal to buy ivory.
WWF-Thailand often works hand-in-hand with travel industry companies and the tech sector to spread awareness and create a more sustainable travel culture.
Groups as diverse as the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), airlines, and TAT are asking visitors to travel ivory-free. The campaign will be rolled out more frequently during high tourist seasons.