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Ivory traders must register by January

All businesses involved in the trade or production of ivory items must register by next month, the government says.

"If we find that any shop or manufacturing facility is involved in the use of illegally-trafficked ivory, we will revoke their business licence," Theerapat Prayurasiddhi, deputy director-general of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP), said yesterday.

The DNP will also require them to adopt a system that clearly identifies the origin of the ivory.

Domesticated elephants have identification papers so their ivory can be sold, according to Thai law.

The DNP wants to strictly control the trade after huge illegal shipments have been discovered in Thailand and nearby countries in recent times. Some 10 tonnes of African elephant ivory has been seized in Thailand over the past three years, and last week officials in Malaysia intercepted more than 1,000 tusks - the biggest ever shipment, weighing 24 tonnes - hidden in two containers allegedly sent from Togo in west Africa.

The Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has informed Thailand that it must urgently address this.

According to the DNP, the Secretariat has threatened to recommend its country members to suspend trade with Thailand in merchandise like crocodile hides, orchids and wildlife products. This trade is worth billions of baht. More than 170 countries are members of CITES.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Preecha Rengsomboonsuk wants the DNP to tackle the problem fast.

Bangkok will host the 16th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES in March.

Most ivory businesses and plants are located in Nakhon Sawan, Uthai Thani, Surin, Phuket, Chiang Mai and Bangkok. They will have to provide proof of origin of any ivory they have, develop reliable book-keeping methods and issue sales receipts to buyers.

They have been told they should not sell to foreign tourists because some of them end up running afoul of laws in their home countries banning such products. During the past five years, 277 foreigners have been arrested in Europe, the US and Australia for carrying ivory products from Thailand.

"This is not good for Thailand's image," Theerapat added.




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