Bangkok, 5 October, 2018 – WWF-Thailand, in a collaborative effort with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP), NokScoot Airline, and Bangkok Art & Culture Center (BACC), launches “Travel Ivory Free” campaign with an exhibition of a life-size resin sculpture of a mother and baby African elephant to highlight ivory trade and save elephants.
The sculpture, measuring 1.8 metres high and seven meters long, currently on display at the BACC until next Wednesday 10 October, aims to mobilise tourists and Thai citizens to stop buying ivory.
Ms. Yowalak Thiarachow, Country Director of WWF-Thailand, said: “The “Travel Ivory Free” campaign is a critical part of WWF-Thailand’s efforts to build public support to close the ivory market in Thailand.”
Every year, more than 20,000 elephants are killed in Africa and their tusks taken to supply ivory markets, primarily in Asia. As a result, the population of African elephants has dropped from 1.3 million in 1979 to approximately 415,000 in 2016. If this slaughter continues, the African elephant could go extinct in the wild.
“Trafficking of ivory and other wildlife is a transnational crime that is on par with drug trafficking, the arms trade and human trafficking. Wildlife crime destroys wildlife populations, wildlife-based livelihoods, and undermines the rule of law. It is a security issue as much as a conservation issue,” Ms. Yowalak said.
Thailand has long been a hub for the illegal ivory trade, but in the last four years the Thai government has taken strong steps to reduce the illegal ivory trade, primarily through the Elephant Ivory Act, which limits the trade to ivory from captive Asian elephants in Thailand, and by revising the Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act to list the African elephant as a protected species.
As a conservation organization, WWF-Thailand hopes to put a complete end to the ivory trade through raising awareness about the plight of African elephants and calling on tourists and Thai citizens to stop buying ivory.
Mr. Tanes Petsuwan, TAT Deputy Governor of Marketing Communications, said: “Elephants have always held great cultural and national significance in Thailand. In many ways, they are seen as a friend and family to the Thai people.
“In the past, we have shown our commitment to ensure the preservation of elephants through the opening of an elephant conservation centre and even a hospital dedicated to elephants. For the majority of tourists traveling to Thailand, elephants are always a part of their ‘to-see’ list.
“To that end, it is great to see the launch of the “Travel Ivory Free” campaign as a means to end the ivory trade and advance tourism in Thailand as a driver of sustainable development.”
The one-of-a-kind masterpiece, the mother and baby African elephant resin sculpture, was created by Silapathorn award-winning artist, Wasinburee Supanichvoraparch to show that buying ivory fuels the cruel and destructive poaching that is wiping out elephants across Africa
Wasinburee said: “My first thought on this art piece was that I wanted to create work that represented the cruelty and violence that was both surreal and went beyond reality. But the more I learned from photography and related information on the African elephant, the more I felt I could not capture the sadness associated with it. I realised that there was no way to truly represent the wretchedness and pain of reality in this world.
“This makes me wonder why there are still people who haven’t realized that it is not possible for those ivory accessories to create real beauty, pride, social status and blessings, when they are made from torture, loss and death.
“Nowadays, news and information are easily accessible. We constantly see this cruelty, but if we continue to consider this as distant from us, we will never stop the brutal killing. Or… are we just going to blame and question each other until the day that elephants no longer exist and become just a digital memory?”
Visitors are invited to take pictures of the life-size sculpture and share it online using the #TravelIvoryFree hashtag from 1-10 October, 2018, to show their support for ending the ivory trade by closing the ivory market in Thailand.