Laos playing growing role in illegal ivory trade, report says
As elephant poaching reaches crisis levels, Laos contributes to the illicit slaughter of the endangered animals for their valuable tusks.
Tue, Jul 10 2012 at 1:00 PM
Thai Customs Department officials inspect seized elephant tusks in 2011 (Photo: Pairoj, AFP)
Laos is playing an increasingly important role in the illegal international ivory trade with foreign tourists, particularly Chinese, driving growing demand for the substance, a report said July 10.
The report, by wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, highlights a "significantly higher volume of ivory items openly on sale" in Laos and multiple seizures of African ivory heading to the communist country.
This "strongly suggests that Lao PDR is now playing a more prominent role in the international ivory trade than was previously thought, especially as a conduit for large shipments to China," the report said.
A TRAFFIC survey, carried out in August 2011, found 2,493 pieces of ivory, including jewelry, name seals and raw tusks, openly on sale in the capital Vientiane -- up from around one hundred ivory items seen on sale in 2002.
Prices for the items were quoted in U.S. dollars and Chinese Yuan, not the Laotian Kip, indicating "international visitors appear to be the main buyers" the report said.
According to data from the Elephant Trade Information System, Laos was implicated as the destination in four large seizures made between 2009 and 2011, totalling more than four tons of ivory.
"Laos certainly functions as a transit point for ivory heading to China and Thailand, but it may also be emerging as a final destination (with a) growing market for ivory products," the report said, calling on the government to do more to crackdown on the illegal trade.
"Countries in Asia must do their part to help African countries shut down the illegal ivory supply chain by finding out how the ivory got to them and who was responsible for bringing it there," said Chris Shepherd, deputy director of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia.
"Elephant poaching is at crisis levels and demands a coordinated global response," Shepherd, who was co-author of the report, said in a statement July 10.
All ivory trade in Laos is forbidden and no commercial export of ivory from the country is permitted.
Copyright 2012 AFP Global Edition