TED Case Studies

Thailand bird Trade

          CASE NUMBER:          68 
          CASE NAME:          Thai Wildlife Trade


1.        The Issue

     The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of
Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) was negotiated with a view to curbing
abusive trade in endangered species.  The Convention has been
somewhat successful in controlling trade in particularly well known
species.  Nevertheless, a number of countries have yet to
effectively implement CITES.  Thailand's lack of international
cooperation and political will to enforce existing legislation made
it the center for illegal trade and smuggling of threatened species
of wildlife.  Thus, in 1991 Secretariat of the Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna
(CITES) urged its members to ban trade with Thailand in any
specimens of species included in the CITES Appendices, especially
birds.  Thailand has since approved two pieces of legislation which
provide Thai authorities with the legal means to implement CITES
with respect to both animal and plant species.  In April 1992, the
CITES Secretariat responded approvingly by recommending to the
Parties the lifting of the trade ban on CITES specimens with

2.        Description

     Thailand has been a member of CITES since 1983, yet in 1989
still no domestic legislation enabling anything but the most
limited implementation of the Convention.  The main wildlife
legislation was the Wild Animal's Reservation and Protection Act,
1960, amended 1972.  The Act established three categories of
species: (1) reserved species which could be hunted only with
special permission and only for scientific purposes; (2) protected
animals which were subject to a quota and could be hunted only with
a license; and (3) unregulated species which could be hunted,
traded and exported freely.  Many of the commonly traded species
were not protected by this legislation, despite their being listed
in the CITES Appendices, including: the water monitor, Varanus
salvator, the clouded monitor, Varanus bengalensis (Appendix II)
the Saltwater Crocodile, Crocodylus porasus, and the Siamese
Crocodile, Crocodylus siamensis (Appendix I).  

     There was a similar lack of control over the import and export
of plants.  The management authority for processing export permits
consistently issued blank CITES permits to the exporter who then
supplied the necessary information.  No physical inspections were
carried out and no expertise was available for identifying orchid
species.  The Seed Act (B.E.2518, 1975) did prohibit exports of
certain species, but these were only fruits the export of which
might have encouraged commercial competition.  All exports were
supposed to go through one of nine designated check points. 
However, the Wildlife Conservation Division maintained only a small
staff at each of these points, and few members, if any, are trained
in the identification of wildlife products.  Imports are covered by
the Plant Quarantine Act and should have come to the attention of
the Agricultural Regulatory Division.  However, when questioned,
the Division was not aware that any imports of orchids had taken
place -- despite the fact that several species not native to
Thailand had been re-exported.

     This notorious lack of control over trade in wildlife has made
Thailand the center of illegal wildlife trade and smuggling
activity in Indochina.  More importantly, Thailand has become an
outlet for illegal wildlife from all over the world, often acting
as a laundering point for wildlife to enter from other countries. 
Thailand's lax control over wildlife commerce is undermining CITES
and contributing to the diminishing number of species as diverse as
the Asian Elephants, the South American Caiman, and wild orchids.

     In April, 1991, based on the foregoing information, the CITES
Standing Committee recommended to the 121 Parties to the Convention
that they prohibit trade with Thailand, in fauna and flora species
listed in the Convention.  Finally, in 1992, Thailand responded to
the pressure by approving the Wild Animals Reservation and
Protection Act (B.E. 2535) which replaced the Wild Animals
Reservation and Protection Act 1960 (as amended in 1972) and the
Plant Act (B.E. 2535) which redefines the Plant Act (B.E. 2518). 
These acts provide Thai authorities with the legal means to
implement CITES.  Several articles are directly related to the
convention: (1) Article 100 of the Wild Animals Act provides that
trade in wildlife is prohibited unless the wildlife is derived from
captive breeding operations; (2) Article 24 specifically
incorporates the CITES Appendices (animals only) into the
legislation; (3) other articles provide for penalties of up to four
years imprisonment and/or a fine of Baht 40,000 ($1,600). 
Similarly, the Plant Act defines "conserved plants" as those plants
listed in the CITES Appendices.  Import, export and transit of
Conserved Plants are forbidden except under permit.

3.        Related Cases

     BIRDS case
     THAILOG case
     SWIFT case
     TIMOWL case
     CRANE case
     MIGRATE case

     Keyword Clusters         

     (1): Impact                   = THAIand 
     (2): Bio-geography            = TROPical
     (3): Environmental Problem    = Species Loss Air [SPLA]     

4.        Draft Author:  Julie Ferguson

B.        LEGAL Clusters

5.        Discourse and Status:  AGReement and COMPlete

     In accordance with its responsibilities under the CITES, in 
July 1991, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service ordered that
no shipments of wildlife or fish or their products which are listed
in Appendix I, II or III of CITES may be imported into the United
States, directly or indirectly, from Thailand or any of its
territories or dependencies.

6.        Forum and Scope:  CITES and MULTIlateral

7.        Decision Breadth:  120 (CITES)

8.        Legal Standing:  TREATY

C.        GEOGRAPHIC Clusters

9.        Geographic Locations

     a.   Geographic Domain : ASIA
     b.   Geographic Site   : East Asia [EASIA]
     c.   Geographic Impact : THAIland

     All wildlife indigenous to Thailand is at risk.  Thailand's
acceptance of unlicensed trade from neighboring countries such as
Myanmar, Kampuchea and Laos also puts species in those areas at
risk (see THAILOG case).  In addition, because Thailand has become
haven for laundering wildlife trade from all over the world, it is
endangering species from all over the world, including the caiman
from South America. 

10.       Sub-National Factors:  NO

11.       Type of Habitat:  TROPical

D.        TRADE Clusters

12.       Type of Measure:  Import Ban [IMBAN]

     The measure bans trade in a variety of wildlife products from
Thailand, but is especially targeted towards bird trade.

13.       Direct vs. Indirect Impacts:  DIRect

     Since this is a trade ban, it is a direct measure.

14.       Relation of Measure to Environmental Impact

     a.  Directly Related     : YES  BIRDS
     b.  Indirectly Related   : NO
     c.  Not Related          : NO
     d.  Process Related      : YES  Species Loss Air [SPLA]

15.       Trade Product Identification:  BIRD

16.       Economic Data

     Global wildlife trade is valued at $5-8 billion annually, 30 
percent of which is illegal.  Each year 30,000 monkeys and other
primates are shipped across international borders, along with 20-30
million pelts, 500,000 parrots, 400-500 million ornamental fish,
1000-2000 raw tons of corals, 7-10 million cacti, and 1-2 million

     Exports of live mammals and birds from Thailand must be
reconstructed from records of importing countries as Thailand has
not consistently reported the export of any live animals.  Primates
were the most commonly exported of larger mammals.  The two most
commonly exported species were the Squirrel Monkey (Saimiri
sciureus) and the Common Marmoset (Callithrix jacchus), both South
American species.  Twenty seven tigers (Panthera tigris) were
imported in 1987.  Reportedly, 25 of these tigers were exported by
the United Kingdom, declared to be captive-bred (see TIGER case). 
In 1984 the United States reported exporting to Thailand 1,300
Spectacled Caiman of El Salvadoran origin.  Also, Table III-67-4
indicates that a very large number of birds, mostly parrots, were
exported to Thailand (see BIRDS case).

     Trade in crocodile, snake and lizard skins presents another
serious problem for Thailand.  Shops throughout the country are
stocked with large quantities of products made from South American
Caiman skins.  In 1988 as many as three quarter of a million skins
may have been traded, most of which were illegally exported from
South America.

     As for lizards, both the Water Monitor Varanus salvator and
the Clouded Monitor V. bengalensis are often hunted for their
skins.  V. Bengalensis is on CITES Appendix I and therefore only
legally exported to non-Parties or Parties with reservations to the
Convention (Japan).  Nevertheless, between 199,000 and 230,000
Water Monitor skins (Varanus salvator) and 15,000 to 25,000 Clouded
Monitor skins (V. bengalensis) are exported each year.  Thailand
had a reservation for V. bengalensis allowing its export, which
reservation it withdrew only in 1987.

     Skins of at least 8 different species of snakes have been
exported from Thailand.  The Rock Python (Python molurus) and the
Reticulate Python (Python reticulatus) are the most valuable. 
However, the Dog-faced Water Snake Cerberus rhynchops and the Whip
Snake Ptyas mucosus, both Appendix III species, have been the most
numerous exports.  The skins exported come from Thailand and from
neighboring countries, particularly Laos and Cambodia.  

     Thailand is perhaps the world's largest orchid growing and
exporting country.  The Thai Royal Forest Department has summarized
the total exports of orchids from 1986 to 1988.  Between 3 to 6
million live plants and up to 125 million cut flowers are exported
each year.  Thailand has exported up to 610 different taxa of
orchids in a single year.  Many species apparently are re-exports
of wild plants indicating that Thailand is a collection and
distribution center for South East Asia.  In fact, one of the most
commonly exported species, P. callosum, is extremely rare in
Thailand but imported in large quantity from Myanmar.  P. delenatii
and P. gratrixianum occur only in Vietnam and China, P. randsii and
P. philippinense in the Philippines, P.purpuratum in Hong Kong, and
P. wardii, P. vicotria-regina, P. superbiens and P. rothschildianum
in Indonesia and Malaysia.  P. rothschildianum is probably extinct
in the wild.

17.       Impact of Measure on Trade Competitiveness:  BAN

     Luxmoore states that collection of orchids has clearly led to
a decline in numbers of many species.  This decline has resulted in
a price increase for most species.  He states that some prices for
some species have "risen fivefold in as many years."  

18.       Industry Sector:  PET

     Most of the wildlife exports from Thailand are wildlife and
the majority of these are birds.  These animals are purchased as

19.       Exporter and Importer:  THAIland and MANY

E.        ENVIRONMENT Clusters

20.       Environmental Problem Type:  Species Loss Air (SPLA)

     All wildlife indigenous to Thailand is at risk.  Thailand's
acceptance of unlicensed trade from neighboring countries such as
Myanmar, Kampuchea and Laos puts species in those areas also at

21.       Name, Type, and Diversity of Species 

     Name:          Birds
     Type:          Animal/Vertibrate/Bird
     Diversity:     168 birds per 10,000 km/sq (Thailand)

     Thai trade in endangered species, and consequently the CITES
ban on trade with Thailand in CITES species affects well over 40
species of mammals, 610 species of orchids, 100 species of birds,
and 15 species of reptiles.  Parrots were the bird most commonly
exported from Thailand.  The majority were native Thai species,
with the exception of Agapornis spp. and Serinus mozambicus and
almost all were listed in schedule 1 of the Wild Animals
Reservation and Protection Act.  Psittacula alexandri was exported
in the greatest numbers, totalling almost 6500 in 1987 alone. 
Exports of this species were principally to Japan.  The Python
spp., the Water Monitor (Varanus salvator) and the Cobra (Naja
naja), all native to Thailand, were the most commonly exported
species of live reptiles.  Most exports were destined for the
United States. 

22.       Resource Impact and Effect:  MEDium and PRODuct

23.       Urgency and Lifetime:  LOW and 5-10 years

     The main CITES species affected by Thailand's lax trade
regulations are orchids, several million specimens of which are
exported each year.  Several orchid species have been over
exploited almost to the point of extinction in the wild.

     Thailand's endangered species trade is also posing a serious
threat to a number of species of crocodiles.  The Siamese
Crocodile, for example, has been pushed by trade to the brink of
extinction.  The South American Caiman is also seriously threatened
by international commerce in products made from its skin.  The
numbers of some other live animals have been seriously affected,
notably parrots and primates.

24.       Substitutes:  Eco-Tourism [ECOTR]

VI.       OTHER Factors

25.       Culture:  NO

26.       Trans-Border:  YES

     Thailand is a conduit for wildlife exports from Kampuchea,
Laos and Burma.  This trade includes rhino horn and elephant tusk,
many types of cat, and other species (see RHINO, TIGER, ELEPHANT,
and USCHINA cases).

27.       Rights:  NO

28.       Relevant Literature

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild 
     Fauna and Flora 27 UST 108, TIAS 8249 (1973).
Dauphine. Book Review, Journal of Wildlife Management 55 (1991) 
     (review of S. Fitzgerald, International Wildlife Trade
Endangered Species Act of 1973 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.
Favre, D.  International Trade in Endangered Species:  a Guide to
     CITES (1989).  
Fitzgerald, S.  International Wildlife Trade: Whose Business
     is it?  (1989).
50 C.F.R. 23 et. seq. (implementing the Convention on
     International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna
     and Flora).
Gray.  "Bangkok is Regional Market for Wildlife Souvenirs."
     Bangkok World (September 13, 1984).
Held.  "Some Notes on the Present Orchid Scene in Burma."  Orchid
     Research Newsletter 12: 8-9.
Helmley and Caldwell.  "The Crocodile Skin Trade Since 1979." 
     "Crocodiles -- Proceedings of the 7th Working Meeting of
     the Crocodile Specialist Group of the Species Survival
     Commission of IUCN."  IUCN Publications News Series 398-
     412 (1986).
Luxmoore.  "The Implementation of CITES in Thailand."  
     Problems in CITES Implementation, Case Studies in Four
     Selected Countries 1 (World Wildlife Fund, 1989).
Notice, 56 Federal Register 32/260 (July 15, 1991).    
Steller.  Monthly Import/Business Review (United States 
     International Trade Commission, September 1991).
TRAFFIC Southeast Asia.  "Monkey Business in Thailand."  Traffic
     Bulletin 13 (1993): 84.
TRAFFIC, Southeast Asia.  "CITES Legislation for Thailand"
     Traffic Bulletin 13 (1992): 7.
"CITES Lifts Trade Boycott on Thailand."  Traffic Bulletin 13
     (1992): 1.
"Thailand Wildlife Trade Ban."  Traffic Bulletin 12 (1991):
West.  "Wrap-up of the Convention on International Trade in 
     Endangered Species."  Bioscience 40 (1990): 90.


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