In a report by the wildlife trade monitoring network known as TRAFFIC, between April 2011 and March 2013, 79 to 81 wild elephants were illegally captured across the border from Myanmar for sale into the tourist industry in Thailand. There has been a call to action to stop this and to bring wild and domesticated animals under one law to stop the exploitation of wild elephants, especially since such illegal trafficking is posing a great threat to the Asian elephant population in the wild which is recorded at 4,000 to 5,000 — the Asian elephant is considered an endangered species by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
According to an article in the Bangkok Post, a capture in Myanmar could look like this — domesticated elephants are used to lure wild elephants into pits, then of the captured elephants, the older ones might be killed and the younger more profitable are taken. Before they are sold, these elephants are soon mentally broken and trained to be entertainment in the tourism industry.
“Thailand’s action has caused the illegal trade in live elephants from Myanmar to halt, but unless urgent changes are made to outdated legislation and better systems are introduced to document the origin of elephants in tourists camps and other locations across Thailand things could quickly revert to their previous unacceptable state,” said Chris Shepherd TRAFFIC’s regional director for Southeast Asia.
The report goes on to say the penalties for those ignoring the law as “woefully insufficient to act as a deterrent to elephant traffickers.” Urgent reform is recommended by the report to have wild and domesticated animals fall under a single law to stop the illegal sales of captured wild elephants. What’s more is the illegal ivory trade, ivory taken from both domesticated and wild elephants.
“Thailand’s legislation concerning ivory and the ownership of elephants is out-of-date and inadequate,” said Elephant Family’s campaigns manager Joanna Cary-Elwes.
“All eyes will be on Thailand at this week’s CITES meeting to see what they are doing to address these critically important issues. The Asian Elephant is the forgotten elephant; it needs government support now more than ever. If the capture and smuggling of calves is not stopped, some of the last great wild populations of the species are at risk of extinction.”
Image source: Megan Coughlin/Flickr