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International charity exposes Thailand’s abuse of elephants for tourist trade

Maya Taylor

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International charity exposes Thailand’s abuse of elephants for tourist trade | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Moving Animals

The international non-profit organisation, World Animal Protection, has released distressing video footage that blows the lid open on the cruelty involved in the use of Thai elephants for the tourist trade. The footage, secretly filmed at several unnamed camps over two years, shows how elephants are beaten into submission so they will perform tricks for tourists.

The training begins when baby elephants are forcibly taken from visibly distraught mothers, who never see them again. In one instance, the footage shows one female elephant, Gintaala, who has had each of her four calves taken from her one by one. Roatchana Sungthong, the World Animal Protection’s country manager, says such forced separation is cruel.

“Elephants, they are together. They walk in herds and they look after each other. So, doing things like that is very inhumane.”

The baby elephants are transported to camps where they are chained up in isolation and undergo physical and mental abuse on a daily basis. The charity says such practices are intended to break an elephant’s spirit to the point of total submission, where it will agree to spin hoops with its trunk, painting on canvas, or walking on its hind legs – all typical of the tricks performed for tourists at “elephant shows” around the country.

The practice of breaking the elephant’s spirit is known as the “crush” (phajaan, in Thai) and involves forcing them to walk with chained legs, hitting them with bull-hooks, and taking them onto busy highways to instill fear and submission. The charity has collected footage of 8 elephants being put through this training at various camps.

Speaking to Reuters, Thailand’s environment minister, Varawut Silpa-archa, says such practices will not be tolerated. He adds that if the footage is real, action will be taken, urging anyone with information to come forward. Meanwhile, the owner of one elephant camp north of Bangkok, dismisses the footage as “staged.”

“Those video clips are fake, and it was a setup. Who would do such things? To me, there is no reason to do that.”

World Animal Protection insists, however, that the footage is real and not a set-up.

SOURCE: Reuters

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Thailand

WildAid launches ad campaign in Thailand to raise awareness about illegal wildlife trade

Caitlin Ashworth

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WildAid launches ad campaign in Thailand to raise awareness about illegal wildlife trade | The Thaiger
Wildcat skins confiscated in a crackdown by Thai authorities in March 2019. Photo by Wildlife Friends Foundation Branch

The following is a press release submitted by WildAid, a non-profit organisation pushing to end illegal wildlife trade.

In honor of World Wildlife Day, WildAid is launching a series of advertisements highlighting the plight of endangered species, a result of poaching to meet consumer demand for wildlife products such as elephant ivory, rhino horns, shark fin, tiger parts and helmeted hornbill casques. The advertisements released today feature the five species and ask the public to react against wildlife trade by refusing wildlife products and reporting illegal wildlife crime to authorities.

Like many markets, trade in wildlife and wildlife products is shifting online. TRAFFIC’s monitoring of 31 websites and e-commerce platforms in China between 2012 and 2016 found ivory was the most-advertised wildlife product (60%), while rhino horns and associated products were the second most-traded products (20%). In the last few years, social media has also played a role in fostering the illegal wildlife trade because of the platform’s popularity and reach. A more recent study in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam recorded 2,489 ivory items for sale in 545 posts on social media platforms over the span of just five days in July 2019.

The series of advertisements launched through social media is in response to the increasing market and accessibility of wildlife products on popular platforms. The concept of the advertisements was developed pro bono by BBDO Bangkok, Thailand’s leading creative and advertising agency. The #ReactAgainstWildlifeTrade campaign uses a familiar “angry reaction” emoji to illustrate the message that killing endangered species for their parts is unacceptable and this senseless poaching should evoke anger in us all. The campaign was developed based on WildAid’s slogan “When the buying stops, the killing can too,” with an aim to encourage people to REACT against any wildlife trade on their social media channels, putting social pressure on those who are consuming or selling wildlife products.

The illegal wildlife trade is a multi-billion dollar global industry largely driven by consumer demand in expanding economies. The demand for illegal wildlife is highest in Asia, where owning or consuming wildlife products is reflective of status, wealth, or purported health benefits.

For 20 years, WildAid has been campaigning to end the demand for illegal wildlife products using the same technique as top advertisers and delivering high-impact media campaigns. The campaigns are featured on broadcast television and radio, on trains and airplanes, at bus stops and subway stations, and on online platforms, adapting to shifting trends in the wildlife market.

“WildAid’s campaigns are designed keeping in mind cultural and consumer insights, and the latest trends for maximum impact. As a result, there have been significant drops in prices and consumption of endangered species products, such as ivory, rhino horn and shark fin,” said John Baker, Chief Program Officer at WildAid. “We hope that these ads will continue to help increase unacceptability of trading and posting wildlife products online, as well as offline.”

The United Nations estimates that global illegal wildlife trade is worth between $7 and $23 billion a year, making it the fourth-largest illicit trade after arms, drugs and human trafficking. The trade puts not only biodiversity and endangered species at risk, but also our health and economies, as highlighted by the recent COVID-19 outbreak which likely emerged from a live animal market.

“We are proud to support WildAid in its fight to help protect endangered wildlife,” said Somkiat Larptanunchaiwong, CEO at BBDO Bangkok. “BBDO Bangkok is deeply concerned by the depletion of wildlife populations worldwide and the trade of products, such as elephant ivory, rhino horn, shark fin and tiger parts. With this hard-hitting advertisement developed for WildAid, we are confident that our efforts can have an impact on ending consumer consumption behaviors that threaten our planet’s biodiversity.”

“Every small action matters! #ReactAgainstWildlifeTrade every time you see wildlife products on your social media.” added Anuwat Nitipanont, Chief Creative Officer at BBDO Bangkok.

The series of advertisements will be launched through WildAid’s platforms in the U.S, Hong Kong and Thailand.

WildAid launches ad campaign in Thailand to raise awareness about illegal wildlife trade | News by The Thaiger WildAid launches ad campaign in Thailand to raise awareness about illegal wildlife trade | News by The Thaiger

Among the adult urban Thai population, roughly 500,000 own ivory products and around 250,000 use tiger products based on USAID Wildlife Asia’s 2018 study, Research on Consumer Demand for Ivory and Tiger Products in Thailand. In addition, roughly 750,000 intend to buy and use these products in the future. An estimated 2.5 million and around 1.8 million adult urban Thais find use of ivory and tiger products socially acceptable, respectively. The study also found that the belief held by some that the power of elephants and tigers can bring good fortune and ward off evil is another driver of demand for derivative products from these endangered animals.

Helmeted Hornbill: TRAFFIC’s online survey in Thailand found a minimum of 236 online posts offering a minimum of 546 hornbill parts and products in 32 of the 40 groups surveyed on Facebook. These were posted over a period of 64 months, spanning June 2014 to April 2019. Helmeted Hornbill parts and products constituted 452 (83%) of all hornbill commodities recorded.

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Environment

Bryde’s whale in Gulf of Thailand gives birth to third baby

Maya Taylor

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Bryde’s whale in Gulf of Thailand gives birth to third baby | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Jirayu Ekkul / Nation Thailand

A Bryde’s whale living in the Gulf of Thailand has given birth to her third baby whale. Nation Thailand reports that Mae Thong Dee was photographed by wildlife photographer Jirayu Ekkul, whose team has been monitoring the whale. It’s understood she has a number of injuries, including a ripped dorsal fin and serious eye injuries.

“We found Mae Thong Dee and her baby whales about 2 hours after taking a ship to the Gulf of Thailand. It may have been our destiny to meet these whales.”

Jirayu says that 2 years ago, there were concerns Mae Thong Dee wouldn’t survive after sustaining injuries to her eyes, but the latest sighting has given them hope.

“I finally realise why she ate so much and lived in the gulf for over 9 months. It wanted to take care of its health to give birth to a baby whale.”

The Bryde’s whale belongs to the same group as blue whales and humpback whales. Usually spotted individually or in pairs, they will sometimes gather in groups of around 20 in feeding areas. The Bryde’s whale is on Appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, with its conservation status listed as unfavourable. It is also covered by the Memorandum of Understanding for the Conservation of Cetaceans and Their Habitats in the Pacific Islands Region. It was named after Johan Bryde, the Norwegian consul to South Africa, who helped create the first modern whaling station in the country.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Chon Buri

Chon Buri zoo invites people to vote on baby hippo’s name – VIDEO

Maya Taylor

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Chon Buri zoo invites people to vote on baby hippo’s name – VIDEO | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thai Rath

A zoo in the eastern province of Chon Buri is inviting people to vote on the name of a baby pygmy hippopotamus born last month. Anuphong Anont from Khao Kheow Open Zoo says the baby made its first public appearance yesterday.

“The female baby hippo was born on January 14 to 6-year-old mother Kanya and 21-year-old father Tony. The baby hippo is healthy but is very attached to her mum, so we let them have some privacy before introducing the new family member to the public.”

VIDEO: Thai Rath

The zoo is home to 10 hippos and now 8 pygmy hippos, which are a tenth of the size of regular hippos. Among the zoo’s residents is Mali, Thailand’s oldest hippopotamus, who is 55 years old. Visitors to the zoo are being asked to choose from 2 potential names for the latest arrival, with voting taking place on the facility’s Facebook page.

“We have narrowed it down to 2 choices: Moo Wan or Bacon. People can vote for their favourite choice at the zoo’s Facebook page until April 5.”

Nation Thailand reports that everyone who votes will be entered into a draw, with a chance to win the top prize of 3,000 baht. 10 others will receive free entry to the zoo for a year. The results will be announced on April 12.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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