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Tony Jaa, Thai National Football Team Coach and Players Call on Thais to go “Ivory Free”

(From Left) Janpai Ongsiriwittaya, Wildlife Trade Campaign Manager, WWF-Thailand - Tony Jaa, Martial Arts Actor and John Baker, Managing Director, WildAid

     Bangkok – The “Ivory Free Thailand” campaign kicked off today, with renowned international martial arts actor Tony Jaa and National football team coach Kiatisuk "Zico" Senamuang joining WildAid and WWF-Thailand to urge Thais to go “ivory free” and help put an end to the relentless slaughter of African elephants for their tusks.

The “Ivory Free Thailand” campaign is calling on consumers to never buy, own or accept ivory as gifts.

      “Some people believe that ivory products can bring you power and good luck, protecting you from evil. But what they don’t know is that the majority of ivory in the Thai market today comes from elephants that are brutally slaughtered,” said Tony Jaa, who has appeared on-screen alongside Hollywood stars and grew up in Thailand’s northeastern province of Surin, in close  company of elephants. That childhood experience evolved into a lifelong passion for protecting elephants.
 Tony Jaa fights for elephants.

     “So how can ivory bring power and luck when the elephant itself was met with harm and left powerless? Remember, when you buy ivory, you could be paying to kill elephants. Please go ivory free,” added Jaa.
      Along with Jaa and Zico, the campaign announced two other ambassadors: Jay Chanathip Songkrasin and Kong Kroekrit Thawikan from the national football team “The War Elephants,” who also star in the first campaign ads calling on Thais to join their team by not buying ivory.

     “It is devastating to learn that over 30,000 African elephants are poached each year just to satisfy consumer desire for their ivory. Status, success or good fortune cannot come from the ivory of poached elephants. It is only hard work, dedication and playing by the rules that can bring one closer to success. We need to stop relying on items that are pushing these iconic species closer to extinction,” said Kiatisuk "Zico" Senamuang, head coach of Thailand’s national football team. 
(From Left) John Baker, Managing Director, WildAid - Tony Jaa, Martial Arts Actor - Janpai Ongsiriwittaya, Wildlife Trade Campaign Manager, WWF-Thailand and Chairat Thomya, News Anchor and Emcee for the event.

     The ads will be broadcast and shared nationwide with the support of television channels and prominent social media pages. VGI Global media has also extended pro-bono media space to allow the campaign messages to reach commuters at BTS Skytrain stations in Bangkok.

     According to a 2015 national survey by WildAid, African Wildlife Foundation and Save the Elephants, only about half of the Thai population (52%) is aware of the elephant poaching crisis in Africa, with a similar percentage aware that Thailand is one of the world’s primary destinations for smuggled ivory (51%).
     “We need to raise awareness among the Thai public that the local market is supporting the killing of elephants in Africa, and we urgently need to reduce consumption of ivory products,” said John Baker, Managing Director, WildAid, which is partnering with WWF-Thailand on the “Ivory Free Thailand” campaign. “We believe, when the buying stops, the killing can too,” added John Baker.
     WildAid first ran Ivory Free campaigns in China and Hong Kong, which are two of the world’s largest ivory markets along with Thailand.
      Since 2012, WWF-Thailand has been advocating for the Thai government to end its domestic ivory trade as a part of WWF’s global campaign to stop wildlife crime. The US has just published new regulations imposing an almost complete ban on its domestic ivory market, while China and Hong Kong have pledged to close their markets.
     “With historic announcements from the US, China and Hong Kong to shut down their ivory markets, we urge not just the Thai public but also Thailand to go ivory free and save Africa’s elephants,” added John Baker.
     Last year, Thailand passed the Elephant Ivory Act in attempt to regulate the country's legal market in ivory from domesticated elephants. The government has also prohibited the trade and sale of ivory from African elephants by enacting an amendment to the country's existing Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act, making African elephants a protected species in Thailand. However, Thailand is yet to prove to the international community how the regulating of the ivory market can make its domestic ivory market free from illegal ivory.
Tony Jaa fights for elephants.
     “A year has passed since stricter ivory regulations were introduced, yet it is difficult to see whether Thailand’s effort to regulate the ivory market is efficient and working. It is time Thailand reconsiders its policy and moves toward phasing out the ivory trade by completely halting the domestic ivory trade,” said Janpai Ongsiriwittaya, campaign manager, WWF-Thailand.
     WWF-Thailand has successfully campaigned to reduce the illegal ivory available in Thailand since 2013, and in 2015 ran a national campaign, “Chor Chang Can Save Elephants,” which united over 1.3 million voices to speak out against the ivory trade.

(From Left) John Baker, Managing Director, WildAid - Tony Jaa, Martial Arts Actor and
Janpai Ongsiriwittaya, Wildlife Trade Campaign Manager, WWF-Thailand
     “With the Ivory Free Thailand campaign we hope that the public learns the truth about ivory consumption and vows to never buy, own or accept ivory as gifts, making ivory socially unacceptable in Thailand,” added Janpai Ongsiriwittaya.