Sunday, March 09, 2008

Thailand a key player in illegal wildlife trade

Apinya Wipatayotin, Bangkok Post
March 1, 2008

Thailand is a key player in the wild elephant trade, with the country being used as a transit point for jumbos from neighbouring countries on their way to foreign zoos, according to a report from the Thai Wildlife Protection Network.
Nikom Puttha, the network coordinator who commissioned the report on the wildlife situation in Thailand in 2007, said wild elephant calves from Burma are transported to Thailand via five border districts _ Mae Sariang, Mae La Noi and Sop Moei districts in Mae Hong Son and Umphang and Phop Phra in Tak.
It is estimated that at least 50 elephants have been smuggled from Burma to Thailand each year.
The smugglers then apply for registration documents from authorities to certify they are captive elephants. The documents enable wildlife traders to legally move their animals to elephant shelters where they are trained for three years before being sent to foreign zoos.
''We have found that 70% of them will be trained at shelters in the northeastern provinces, such as Surin and Chaiyaphum, while 30% of them will be sent to elephant shelters in the North,'' said Mr Nikom.

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