Smuggled wildlife goods pouring out of India

The porous borders between Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Thailand, plus a growing private aviation market make fighting wildlife smuggling close to impossible, according to ThePrint. The emergence of cryptocurrencies has also led to an increase in all kinds of illegal trade.

Some of the most smuggled wildlife goods out of India passing through Thailand are red sanders, ambergris, seahorses and elephant tusks.

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The red sanders tree is valued for the rich red colour of its wood. The wood is not traditionally considered aromatic.

In India, red sanders grow in the southern tropical dry deciduous forest. The number of seizures across the country and abroad shows that red sanders continue to be smuggled out of India in large quantities, primarily by sea. Containers of red sanders are shipped to transit countries like Dubai, Malaysia and South Korea and from there to China.

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Ambergris is produced in the digestive system of sperm whales and is grey to blackish in colour.

Ambergris is found on the coasts of Australia, Brazil, China, India, Japan, Madagascar, Maldives, New Zealand, and South Africa. Ambrein extracted from Ambergris is used to increase the fragrance of perfumes. In Thailand, both the sale and possession of ambergris are illegal, but 2021-22 witnessed a spate of seizures.

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It is estimated that 150 million seahorses are used in traditional Chinese medicine every year.

Seahorses play an indispensable ecological role in the marine food chain and therefore decrease in their population destabilises the ecological balance of the marine ecosystem. Sea horses are covered under Appendix II of CITES and prohibited from export.

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CITES prohibits commercial international trade in ivory of both Asian and African Elephants. Trading in ivory is completely illegal in Thailand but the country is still a major staging post on the way to Vietnam and China.

Targeted risk intervention strategies combined with traditional methods like the use of sniffer dogs at ports and airports to detect the smuggling of wildlife articles are helpful.

Routes used to smuggle wildlife are often the same routes used to traffic weapons, drugs and people.

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Jon Whitman

Jon Whitman is a seasoned journalist and author who has been living and working in Asia for more than two decades. Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Jon has been at the forefront of some of the most important stories coming out of China in the past decade. After a long and successful career in East sia, Jon is now semi-retired and living in the Outer Hebrides. He continues to write and is an avid traveller and photographer, documenting his experiences across the world.

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