Thu 30 Sep 2004
Filed under: News,On The Border
Bangkok: Thai poachers capture dozens of endangered wild baby elephants in Laos and Myanmar each year to feed growing demand from circuses, zoos and traveling shows, experts warned Thursday.
About 60 baby elephants are captured from forests each year in Thailand and the two neighbour states, eventually to be sold off to merchants mainly in China, according to the Asian Conservation Alliance Task Force (ACATF), a coalition of non-government groups.
“Poachers in Thailand are now expanding their network into neighbouring Myanmar and Laos,” said ACATF coordinator Remi Chandran.
Soraida Salwala, founder of Friends of the Asian Elephant, said many of the animals have been poached from the Nakai plateau in southern Laos.
“Little does the public know that they are actually caught from the wild and these babies are having miserable lives,” she said.
The coalition called for an immediate halt to the trade, which they say is being exploited by Thai breeders who falsely claim their stocks have been bred in captivity. Animals bred in captivity can be sold abroad under certain circumstances.
Wild elephants reproduce at a far higher rate than their counterparts in captive breeding programmes.
ACATF leaders said they have documented 147 elephants exported from Thailand from 1980 to 2002. They say the number could be far higher because several are suspected to have been smuggled across the border, mainly through Laos or Myanmar into China.
Many of the creatures die in transport or from malnutrition, Soraida said.
Thailand is currently home to 1,500 to 2,000 wild elephants while Myanmar claims about 5,000 in the wild.
Asian elephants are among the most protected species in the world with only 50,000 of them left in the wild — about half the level of 100 years ago.