Ministry Orders Halt to Elephant Exports

Bangkok Post
By Apinya Wipatayotin
April 24, 2009

Elephant exports will be suspended for at least five years until a new registration process for the captive beasts is complete, says the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry.

Better records on elephants born on farms are needed, including new ID cards, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti said yesterday.

"We decided not to export any more elephants until we have a better system to prove that the beasts we send overseas are from farms, not from forests," Mr Suwit said.

"This can help protect them from poaching."

The process would take at least five years.

The Department of National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation has estimated that there are 3,000 elephants living in the wild and another 3,000 on farms.

Poachers take elephants from the wild and domesticate them so they can be traded legally at home or sent overseas.

The present ID system and DNA checks cannot stop poachers taking elephants from the wild, Mr Suwit said. Tougher measures are needed, as the number of elephants in the wild is shrinking.

The ministry is also working with agencies such as the Livestock Development Department and the foreign and interior ministries to find a solution, including changes to the elephant law.

Legal change could prevent the issue of fake ID cards and improve the elephants' welfare.

"We have sent 1,000 elephants overseas so other countries can make use of them for educational purposes," the minister said.

"If we don't have a reliable method to check whether they are captive or wild elephants, they could be at risk."

Wildlife Preservation Office director Chatchawan Pitdamkham said Thailand last year received 10 requests for elephants, most of them from China.

The requests could not be approved because there was no clear proof of the elephants' origins.

 Original Article