WWF Greater Mekong reacts to WJC report on shifting ivory trade in the Greater Mekong | WWF
WWF Greater Mekong reacts to WJC report on shifting ivory trade in the Greater Mekong

Posted on 15 June 2020

Changes in regional law enforcement and legislation has led to a shift in the dynamics of the ivory trade in the Greater Mekong, according to a new report.

new report from the Wildlife Justice Commission (WJC) has concluded that, since China banned its elephant ivory trade in 2017, there have been major changes in the way ivory is being trafficked, processed and traded in the Greater Mekong countries.

Based on recent investigations, the WJC has concluded that the ban in China has driven down the price of raw, unprocessed ivory, leading to an increase in the trafficking of processed ivory, which is easier to transport and has value addition.

Additionally, WJC notes that as China,Vietnam and Lao PDR have improved their ivory related wildlife legislation and enforcement, there has been a decrease in open sales of ivory in these countries, shifting the trade to other places with weaker law enforcement. It is currently illegal to sell or buy ivory in all Greater Mekong countries, with the exception of Thailand, where ivory harvested from registered captive elephants can be sold for domestic use. It is also illegal to import or export elephant ivory in all countries in the region. 

WJC surveys observed an increase in the volume of open ivory sales and ivory processing facilities in Cambodia, particularly in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville. These findings are alarming because, according to the WJC, Cambodia had previously not been considered a regional hub for the ivory trade. Cambodia has also become a popular destination for Chinese tourists, with over two million tourists visiting from Mainland China in 2019. 

Earlier research conducted by GlobeScan for WWF found that of the Chinese outbound travellers who had purchased ivory abroad, 13% had done so in Cambodia. Cambodia is the third most likely place for travellers to have purchased ivory after Thailand (27%) and Hong Kong SAR (16%).

As a result of this potential shift, the WJC recommends increasing cross-border collaboration on ivory trafficking and intelligence sharing among countries in the region to create a transnational response to a transnational crime. 

WWF fully supports this transnational approach and is prepared to share its experience facilitating cross-border and inter-agency wildlife law enforcement cooperation to help ensure that trafficking ends and the weak trade ban enforcement does not result in opening up of new markets for illegal ivory in the Greater Mekong.

Read the WJC report.

Ivory being inspected after a raid in Don Sao Market in the notorious Golden Triangle
© WWF Laos
Donate to WWF