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 Seized ivory in Bangkok, Thailand
In this July 6, 2015 file photo, Thai customs officials display seized ivory, being smuggled from Congo to Laos, in Bangkok, Thailand © Sakchai Lalit, File/Associated Press

With China in the process of phasing out its legal ivory trade market, one would think that the fight against combating the illegal market in Asia would be gaining ground. However, a new study has revealed that China’s neighbouring country, Laos, has now become the fastest-growing ivory market in the world, as traders and everyone else in the chain move their businesses across the border.

At a news conference held in Nairobi recently, Save the Elephants – a Kenya-based conservation group – released their extensive report that reveals how the illegal African ivory sales in Laos is growing at an incredible rate.

Between 2013 and 2016, there was a significant increase in the number of Chinese-owned retail outlets that sell ivory, with the main consumers being Chinese nationals – who buy up to 80% of the ivory items in Laos.

Some of the ivory is processed in Vietnam and smuggled into Laos, while in other cases it is processed in Laos by Chinese traders.

Ivory items, such as pendants, necklaces, bangles and beads are sold openly in the shops around the country as there is no proper law enforcement in place, despite Laos being a member of CITES where there are regulations that prohibit the import and export of ivory.

There is a growing concern that with China shutting down its legal ivory market, that more and more consumers will turn to countries such as Laos and the illegal ivory trade will continue to flourish.

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