US opposes Thailand’s attempt at crocodile listing

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BANGKOK, Mar 7 – Thailand is pushing to put Thai crocodiles on the Cites Appendix II list to facilitate unconditional export of the animals’ skin, according to a leading Thai crocodile trader.

Somkiat Wannawatanapong, honorary chairman of the Crocodile Cooperatives of Thailand, said Thailand’s proposal to place its fresh water and salt water crocodiles on Cites Appendix II was opposed by the United States for fear of competition from Thai exporters.

The 16th conference of the parties of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) is being held in Bangkok until March 14.

Manufacturers of brand-name leather products in Italy have imported crocodile skin from Thailand but American authorities seized the goods when they were taken into the US, he said.

He said the US puts Thai crocodile skin on Cites Appendix I, claiming that Thai crocodiles are in the wild when Thailand has, in fact, bred crocodiles for 60 years and the total crocodile population in the country has reached 700,000.

“The price of US crocodile skin is three times higher than that of Thailand and the placing of Thai crocodiles on Appendix II will definitely affect the US. That’s why the US has objected to Thailand’s move,” Mr Somkiat said.

He said the US is the only Cites member opposing Thailand’s proposal.

Thailand will submit the proposal again in the next Cites meeting if it is rejected in the Bangkok conference, he added.

The Thai Fisheries Department and representatives have earlier explained Thailand’s progress in breeding fresh water and salt water crocodiles to the Cites sub-committee.

Vimol Chandrarothai, Fisheries Department director general, said the Thai delegation informed the 16th Cites conference that the Thai crocodiles to be placed on Appendix II are those bred in farms, and not from the wild.

Thai public and private sectors have conserved various crocodile breeds and released more than 200 crocodiles into natural habitats in national parks, he said.

If Thailand’s proposal on Appendix II is approved, the kingdom will export at least Bt3 billion worth of crocodile skins but crocodiles in natural habitats will not be disturbed.