The following article was published today in the Bangkok Post. I have re-posted in its entirety as it is well worth reading. I just feel that it is a pity that it did not name names. I have made that right by commenting at the end - Peter
EDITORIAL from the Bangkok Post
Published: 2/10/2010 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News
"The end of August saw the arrest of a woman who tried to smuggle a sedated baby tiger cub through Suvarnabhumi Airport and aboard a flight to Iran. Now comes the detection and seizure this week of 1,140 endangered star tortoises aboard an arriving flight from Bangladesh. In between was a massive haul of African ivory.
This not only shows that Thai customs authorities are maintaining their vigilance; it confirms that the intensive training given to airport staff under the "Wildlife Trafficking Stops Here" campaign is a worthwhile project that should be extended to land border posts to foil cross-border smuggling.
Stepped-up action is necessary for several reasons. The number of tigers in Asia has plummeted due mainly to habitat loss and poachers who sell their skins and body parts to medicinal and souvenir markets in China, a traditional but illegal activity that Beijing insists it is determined to stamp out. Trade in tigers has been outlawed, no matter whether the animals are domesticated or come from the wild. With so few left in Thai forests, saving them has to be given top priority.
It is troubling that a clandestine market exists for them as high-priced exotic pets in Iran or anywhere else for that matter. A similar fate awaits trafficked star tortoises in Southeast Asia even though they are supposedly protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and cannot be exported without a special permit. In both of these cases, those arrested face jail terms of up to 4 years each and/or a maximum fine of 40,000 baht. This is hardly sufficient to deter an illicit international trade in rare species which has a turnover of billions of baht a year. Worldwide, the wildlife trade is reputed to be the second largest form of black market commerce, only falling behind drug smuggling.
Successive Thai governments have held out promises of tougher laws to protect the country's disappearing wildlife, something the well-intentioned but ineffective 1992 Preservation and Protection Act and earlier 1961 Parks Act have failed to do. Evidence of this inadequacy can be seen any weekend at Chatuchak Market. Not far from the pitiable rows of often sick, caged creatures for sale can be found groups of wildlife traders who openly operate here because the penalties are so small. Arrests have been made for dealing in Madagascan Ploughshare tortoises, so rare that conservationists say only 300 remain in the world, and slow lorises, endangered primates that live in Southeast Asian forests. But when the cases eventually came to court, only fines were imposed. Conservation campaigns at Chatuchak have not shown much success of late.
We can only look back in horror at the events of the past decade and the criticism they have brought as one scandal has followed another. There was the disastrous attempt to import 135 wild animals including zebras and giraffes from Kenya for the Night Safari Zoo in Chiang Mai, the clandestine export of up to 100 tigers to a Chinese zoo, the smuggling of orangutans from Indonesia to a private Thai zoo and the protracted delay in returning them, and the mishandling of an elephant-koala swap with Australia.
Nearly 20 years ago, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth, not known for sugarcoating his criticisms, embarrassed Thai officials presenting him with a conservation award when he said: "Your country is one of the most notorious centres of trading in endangered species in the world."
The shocking part is that if that were true in 1991, it is equally true today."
"the clandestine export of up to 100 tigers to a Chinese zoo" - These were sent out by the Sri Racha Tiger Zoo which is still breeding tigers in their hundreds. None of these animals is of any value from the point of view of conservation. Just where are the animals going?
"the smuggling of orangutans from Indonesia to a private Thai zoo" - This was Bangkok Safari World. There is still some mystery surrounding the disappearance of some of the Orangutans here. It is my strongly held belief that if anyone made serious investigation that these would be found at Koh Kong Safari World in Cambodia. There are 'boxing' Orangutans in both collections.
"135 wild animals including zebras and giraffes from Kenya for the Night Safari Zoo in Chiang Mai" - In my ZooNews Digest mail out edition I remarked about how I believed it was unwise to send any animals to Chiang Mai. Here it was not in a Kenya connection but an Australian one. I recieved a couple emails from down under telling me to keep my mouth shut. Was I wrong? I most certainly was not. It would have been nice to have an apology. Far better that the animals were not sent in the first place. As to the Kenya animals well I had mixed feelings but was against the way that it was tried to be prevented by groups of sensible people mixed in with Animal Rights and their cults.
This below was from an earlier News Story:
"An elephant-koala exchange programme between Thailand and Australia has drawn fierce opposition from animal right activists in both countries who fear it would lead to maltreatment of the endangered animals.
Under the scheme, Thailand is to send eight female elephants and one male, aged 3-8 years, to Sydney's Taronga zoo and Melbourne zoo in Australia and to Wellington zoo in New Zealand in exchange for at least two koalas from Australia.
The koalas will be kept at the two-billion-baht new Night Safari zoo scheduled"
The "Fierce oppostion" was stirred up by animal rights groups again. There was objection too from the so called Thai Elephant Rescue Centres (which are just zoos under another name). There was no way that the care of elephants in Australia was going to be less than anything provided in Thailand and it probably would in many cases be better.
As to the Koalas going to the Night Safari....no I admit it, I was not happy about that. Two billion baht maybe. The Night Safari had what was probably one of the most expensive and beautiful frontages in the world. That sadly was where most of the money was spent. The enclosures themselves were too small and badly done. The walk through section was a good deal better. The chances are a lot of money and lavish care and attention would have been spent on the Koalas and definitely would have been if they had gone to Chiang Mai Zoo.
As to "Chatuchak Market" I have seen all sorts of rare tortoises there in times past including those from Madagascar. Impossible to take photographs without having a nasty accident with camera or head. I walked away dumbstruck wondering if what I had seen was a dream. I saw nothing much on my last couple of visits. Who buys these I wonder? Where do they go? They don't come cheap I imagine. People know what they are buying.
Returning to the closing statement of the article which caused my banter:
"The shocking part is that if that were true in 1991, it is equally true today."
And IT IS true.
We still have the likes of :
The Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi Thailand And they are planning to open another collection!!!!!
Million Years Stone Park and Pattaya Crocodile Farm
Pata Zoo in Bangkok Thailand
Phuket Zoo in Thailand
and those I mentioned earlier. They live by their own set of rules and do not even have a basic understanding of what keeping exotic animals is about. There are some good zoos in Thailand and I don't doubt that within the bad zoos that there are some good and caring staff.
It really is well overdue that the animal keeping facilities were put in order. Next month it is the 18th Annual SEAZA Conference taking place in Bali. Very sadly after 18 conferences SEAZA has still not managed to put its own house in order. I would like to think that this year they actually will stop pulling the wool over their own eyes and actually do something. Unless they do there is no way they can actually approach the governments of their respective countries and have a set of guidelines and minimum standards imposed on all collections keeping exotic animals.
I imagine I will once again have emails telling me to keep my mouth shut. But, like Prince Philip, I won't.