Friday, October 13, 2006

Elephants may get IDs, more protection

Elephants may get IDs, more protection
Janjira Pongrai
The Nation September 10, 2006

Public opinion will be sought on a proposed new law relating to elephants before a final revision of the draft bill is submitted for parliamentary consideration, the vice minister of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry said yesterday

Noppadol Pattama said the bill, which the ministry has recently drafted, complies with and consolidates about 10 existing elephant-related acts and contains 17 key provisions to protect both wild and domestic elephants. These include controversial new regulations regarding the issue of elephant identification documents and the establishment of a DNA database of the animals.

Under the new law, the birth of a domestic elephant must be reported to the ministry within seven days for an elephant ID card to be issued. If an elephant dies, the owner must report the death to officials within 24 hours. The draft bill also states that a DNA database will be set up when such technology is available in the country. It has been more than a decade since the government and conservationists first tried to revise all elephant-related laws.

Soraida Salwala, secretary-general of the Friends of the Asian Elephant Foundation, was happy with the draft bill, saying it closes loopholes in the existing law that only requires elephant owners to register newborn animals within eight years and does not require them to report a death.She said eight years was long enough for anyone to hunt a wild elephant or falsify information, since it was difficult to check in many cases whether elephants were born in captivity or in the wild.

The bill also covers the process of importing and exporting elephants, as well as measures to provide welfare for the animals. Noppadol said the ministry was seeking comment from all parties, especially people who had businesses that utilise elephants.

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