BANGKOK (AFP): Thailand has become a regional center for the illicit trade in products made from endangered animals, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) said this afternoon. During a three-month study, the WWF found more than 33,000 animal products in Bangkok made from internationally protected species, in all worth about 160 million baht (3.7 million dollars). Items made from ivory dominated the range of products fashioned from the body parts of the rare animals, which were mostly rings, earrings, necklaces and Buddha images on sale to tourists in the Thai capital. WWF country director for Thailand Robert Mather said the trade was being fuelled by visitors who typically bought the exotic goods without knowing they were banned. “It’s people not realizing that this is illegal, and when they get them home they get a big shock because these items are often confiscated,” he said. Prosecuting local ivory dealers is difficult because Thailand’s outdated Transport Act of 1932, which covers domesticated elephants, allows owners to remove the animal’s tusks, he said. Thousands of crocodile and snakeskin products, such as handbags and shoes, as well as items made from bears, tigers, sharks, butterflies and giant clams were also found for sale. The animals used to make the products are all protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a UN-sanctioned agreement that Thailand ratified in 1983. In the future, Mather said he hoped to work with the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Thai hotel associations to stamp out the illicit trade.
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