When it comes to shopping, visitors to Thailand, especially Bangkok are spoilt for choice by the amazing variety or products that appeal to a wide range of different tastes and budgets.
However, amongst the variety of things you can buy in this shopper’s paradise you may also come across some products that could be made from wild animals and plants. The vast majority of these products such as, belts and hand bags made from crocodile skin will have been produced in a legal and appropriate manner.
Unfortunately, there will be a good chance that you will also find some products that are made from ivory or snake skin that origins will almost certainly be questionable and could even be illegal.
As a visitor to Thailand you need to be you need be aware that not everything you will see for sale in markets and some shops, particularly in cities and tourist destinations will be legal, especially where the sale of animals or animal products is concerned. It could also be the case that these sorts of illegal activities or trading are so common that it almost becomes the norm or even accepted.
The flip side of this is that some trading of what you may consider to be an exotic animal is absolutely legal and only becomes illegal if someone tries to take said animal out of the country.
Therefore, it can be hard to distinguish between the legal and illegal, especially as you are in an unfamiliar setting. Ultimately, as a visitor to Thailand, you have some responsibility in finding out about what is right and what is wrong according to Thai law. This is particularly valid if you are considering buying any exotic animals or products that are made from animal parts.
Firstly you need to ensure that whatever it is you are buying is not the subject of fines, confiscation or even imprisonment, either in Thailand or in your own country, once you return. Be sure that you stay well within the law so you do not end up buying something you shouldn’t.
Secondly, you should also make sure that you are not unintentionally supporting animal cruelty or any of the criminal networks who may be profiting from the illegal trade of exotic or endangered animals.
Finally, it is important to support the conservation of the rich natural legacy of Thailand’s incredible wildlife.
Remember, the decision is yours and if you are ever in doubt then it is always better to walk away and not buy anything at all, rather than becoming the unsuspecting victim of an illegal wildlife crime.
Illegal Animal Trade in Thailand
There are a number of animals or animal parts that are illegal to buy and sell in Thailand and even though you might see them for sale at markets or in shops, buying any of them could result in a hefty fine, deportation or at worst, up to four years imprisonment.
Illegal trade in ivory is a big problem throughout the world, particularly in Asia and Africa. Taking it out of any country, especially Thailand is against the law and taking it back home will definitely be illegal. For these reasons never buy any products that are made of or contain ivory, including jewellery, carvings, statues or tusks.
There are 5 species of turtle that are found naturally in the waters off the Andaman Coast and the Thai Gulf and all of these are classed as being endangered. You might see products that are made from turtle shells at some of Bangkok’s famous markets and high end jewellery stores but the fact is that it is against the law to buy any turtle shells in Thailand and it is also illegal to try and take them out of the Thailand.
Trumpet Shells and Giant Clams
Whilst you think that these may look nice at home on your mantelpiece, the truth is they look far better in their underwater, natural habitat. If you want to see them, learn how to scuba dive! All trumpet shells and giant clams are protected by wildlife protection laws in Thailand and you are not allowed to buy or try to transport them out of Thailand.
Tigers and Large Cats
Tigers, leopards and golden cats are all subjects of protection by international and national wildlife law. Therefore, buying any rugs made from tiger or leopard skin, tiger claws, skulls, teeth and even medicines is totally illegal.
Snakes are very common throughout all of Thailand and a lot of snakes are not protected by law. The exceptions to this are pythons and cobras, which are protected by both national and international laws and any products that are made from these snakes are illegal. However, some snake skin products, which come from snakes specifically bred in snake farms, are legal in Thailand.
The sale or purchasing of any of these products mentioned is illegal in Thailand and by buying any of these you will be breaking the law and directly contributing to animal cruelty.
The above is just a small list of the many endangered animals or animal products that you might see for sale in Thailand. If you do see exotic animals or animal products for sale exercise a huge degree of caution before purchasing them and make sure you fully research Thai and international laws on ALL trading of exotic animals.