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Wildlife law enforcement and double standards in Thailand

By Edwin Wiek – WFFT
March 15, 2012

A notorious wildlife trader was busted by the Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Division (NRECD) and Department of National Parks (DNP) in Sraburi province on March 8th, exactly a week ago. The man had no zoo license and could not provide any legal documents for the almost 300 wild animals such as 13 white lions, 5 tigers, 2 baby orangutans, 2 red pandas, 30 marmoset monkeys, camels and 30 more species of protected wildlife, the owner however said he needed 3 days to provide all documents as they were with his father in Sisaket province. Now 8 days after the raid all wild animals are still with the owner even though no paperwork was presented.

The raids by the Department of National Parks (DNP) on elephant tourist camps around the country made headline news as well. The DNP visited one elephant camp in Phuket and confiscated two baby elephants. Two camps in Sai Yok, Kanchanaburi were raided and 19 elephants were taken. By just raiding a few camps it was clear that the claims by some people that a huge number of captive elephants were without proper paperwork and taken from the wild were true. The director-general of the DNP, Damrong Phidet, said it was clear that probably hundreds of elephants were obtained illegal around the country and vowed to uphold the law to the maximum extend, going after the owners of these elephants and in particular the Surin elephant village, the Ayutthaya camps and all elephant camps North of Chiangmai. He stated that under his leadership the DNP would enforce the law without exception, no matter who they are or whom they know. The Director-general was quoted as saying that he would raid the Surin elephant village on the 5th of March; he also claimed that when any illegal wildlife or wild caught elephants were found he would immediately confiscate the animals as he had done with the rescued animals found at the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT).

So here we are more than a month after the first raids against the Elephant Nature Park Foundation (ENP) and the WFFT, both charities who have been raided respectively 4 and 8 times by the DNP, and 103 animals were forcibly removed on immediate bases from the WFFT even though there was supporting legal paperwork. Damrong Phidet’s words were clear; “if any illegal wildlife is found we will confiscate it!” But mister Damrong’s words and actions have completely contradicted themselves; he now refuses to further raid and inspect elephant camps country-wide even though he knows that they house hundreds of illegally obtained elephants, and as more insult to injury he even refuses to confiscate almost 300 illegally imported and obtained wild animals from an illegal wildlife trader that has openly said he imports and exports wildlife for zoos. The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) office in Bangkok has said they never issued any import licenses for baby orangutans nor red pandas, making it clear they must have been imported illegally. For any of the other 200+ animals there is no proof of legal ownership as well.

With less than 12 months to go before the DNP and the Thai government will host the next international CITES meeting with over 190 countries attending a boiling question will be how suitable Damrong Phidet’s department is to host this international meeting? With hundreds of illegally kept wild caught elephants around the country, some poached from the wild within Thailand and some smuggled in from neighboring countries such as Burma we have an issue that needs to be acted upon. With illegal wildlife traders in Thailand openly stating that they (illegally) import and export wildlife protected under the CITES convention, and when caught by the authorities even being allowed to keep these wild animals, we have an issue that completely undermines the principals of the international CITES convention.

Instead of going after poachers and illegal wildlife traders, Damrong chooses to attack charities such as ENP and WFFT for reasons only known to no-one but himself, taken rescued wild animals hostage as a way to silence the voice of those who sincerely care about the protection of animal rights and wildlife conservation.

Written by Edwin Wiek / 15-03-2012

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