– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community
PHUKET: Hollywood heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio has called on Thailand and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to show leadership on elephant conservation by banning all ivory trade in the country.
“Illegal wildlife trade is the most urgent threat facing species like tigers, rhinos and elephants. These animals are being killed every day to feed an escalating demand for their body parts,” he said.
In a personal e-mail, DiCaprio, 38, urged the public to join the initiative, which included spreading the word and signing a global petition. It also called on Yingluck to prohibit any kind of ivory trade.
He is helping to launch the World Wildlife Fund’s animal rights campaign called “Hands off My Parts”.
“Whole populations are at risk of being wiped out if we don’t take immediate action to shut down this illicit trade. As a key step, I am joining WWF and others in calling on Thailand’s government to show leadership on elephant conservation by shutting down its ivory market before the country hosts a meeting of 177 nations on wildlife trade in March 2013.”
The initiative aims to raise awareness about the rhinoceroses, tigers and elephants that are being slaughtered for their skins, bones, tusks, horns and other parts.
The actor and other celebrity animal-rights activists such as Emily VanCamp, Josh Bowman, Stacy Keibler, Alyssa Milano, Ian Somerhalder and Ethan Suplee have banded together to demand immediate action on the black-market trade in fauna.
The superstar said late last month he was taking a breather from acting.
“I’m a little bit drained,” he told the German newspaper Bild.
“I am now going to take a long, long break.”
After appearing in three films – “Django Unchained”, “The Great Gatsby” and the recently finished “The Wolf of Wall Street” – in two years, DiCaprio says he’s “just worn out”.
Publicity tours for the films still lie ahead, but he has other plans for when his schedule loosens up.
“I would like to improve the world a bit,” he said. “I will fly around the world doing good for the environment.”
PHUKET: The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) is trying to better regulate the ivory trade in Thailand before the high-profile Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) conference kicks off in Bangkok early next month.
The DNP will also work with a CITES team in conducting random checks at ivory shops in Thailand on Thursday as part of a measure to stamp out illegal ivory trade.
DNP chief Theerapat Prayurasiddhi vowed yesterday to enforce the law strictly.
The Secretariat of CITES has informed Thailand to urgently address the smuggling of ivory from Africa.
Parties to CITES will gather in Thailand from March 3 to 14 for its 16th meeting.
Theerapat said the illegal ivory trade was a sensitive issue.
Nearly 300 entrepreneurs are engaged in the production, processing, and trade of ivory in Thailand. The ivory trade is legal here, as many elephants in the country are domesticated and are issued identification papers. Non-government organizations (NGOs), however, have raised concerns about the smuggling of African elephants’ ivory into Thailand.
Theerapat said 270 foreigners were arrested at immigration checkpoints in Europe and the United States over the past few years for carrying ivory products they had bought from Thailand. Over three tonnes of ivory was seized from them.
Although Thailand has no plan to ban ivory trade on its soil, Theerapat said the Kingdom would prove to CITES it had cracked down seriously on the trade of smuggled ivory.
Theerapat said his agency had already held discussions with relevant agencies and more than 10 Bangkok-based entrepreneurs to ensure strict compliance with laws governing the ivory trade. For example, entrepreneurs must identify the origin of ivory used for their products.
“If we find any shop fails to comply with our regulations, we will issue a warning the first time or perhaps the second time. But if the offense is repeated, we will ask the Commerce Ministry to revoke its license,” Theerapat said.
The DNP would hold similar discussions with entrepreneurs in 16 other provinces including Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Nakhon Sawan, Phuket, Surin and Phitsanulok over the next two weeks.
Theerapat said the DNP would also advise that shops avoid selling ivory products to foreign tourists.
Somkuan Maliwan, a representative from an ivory shop, said most ivory-product buyers were foreigners. “So, it will be hard to provide co-operation on this requirement. For others, we are willing to co-operate,” she said.
— Phuket Gazette Editors