Elephants in Burma at Risk Due to Poor Thai Law: Activists

By The Irrawaddy 7 July 2014

RANGOON — After taking steps to halt the illegal trafficking of elephants from Burma, Thailand has been urged by a wildlife trade monitoring network to update legislation that currently leaves the animals vulnerable.

In an assessment of the live elephant trade in Thailand between April 2011 and March 2013, at least 60 percent of the animals trafficked came from Burma, according to the monitoring network, TRAFFIC.

Burma is home to about 5,000 Asian Elephants, the network said in a statement on Monday, as it released a report on the illegal trade. Many wild elephants are captured to supply the tourism industry in Thailand.

In 2012, the Thai government began examining the authenticity of origin and ownership documents of elephants being held in captivity.

“Thailand’s action have caused the illegal trade in live elephants from Myanmar [Burma] to halt, but unless urgent changes are made to outdated legislation and better systems are introduced to document the origin of elephants in tourists camps and other locations across Thailand things could quickly revert to their previous unacceptable state,” Chris Shepherd, TRAFFIC’s regional director for Southeast Asia, said in the statement.

For example, current legislation states that elephants only need to be registered when they turn 8 years old, the network said.

“There are gaping holes in the current legislation, which do little to deter unscrupulous operators passing off wild-caught young animals as being of captive origin and falsifying birth and ownership documentation,” Joanna Cary-Elwes, campaigns manager of Elephant Family, an organization dedicated to the conservation of Asian Elephants, said in the statement.

Penalties for those who violate the law are also low, TRAFFIC added.