Thursday, July 06, 2006

Elephant Trading Blockade in Thailand Leads To Bigger Things: Kenya, Australia Suspend Transfer of Native Animals

I’m very impressed that the actions of the activists have led to results of this magnitude. They’ve literally exposed and stopped this horrible practice of actually trading live, native animals to foreign lands. I’m sickened that countries are doing this, and destroying natural habitats simply for money. We’ll see what happens with this one.


Kenya, Australia suspend transfer of native animals

Nairobi court to hear NGO's plea; Koala deal stopped due to elephant blockade

Kenya and Australia have halted controversial wildlife deals with Thailand amid protests here and abroad.

A Nairobi court has put a stop on the Kenyan Government's plan to export animals to Thailand pending the hearing of a case filed by a local non-government group.

And Australian zoos have held up delivery of four koalas here after the transfer of eight Thai elephants to the country was blocked by protesters.

Kenya Broadcasting Corp said yesterday the Nairobi CBO consortium opposed the wildlife transfer, which it described as a waste of the country's few natural resources.

Justice Joseph Nyamu said the case involved interpretations of several conventions and that the two parties should exchange arguments before a hearing on Sept 25.

Meanwhile, Sopon Damnui, director of Thailand's Zoological Park Organisation said problems delivering eight Thai elephants to Australia had affected the transfer of four koalas, which had been due to arrive yesterday.

"Thai veterinarians went there but did not bring the koalas back with them due to the elephant problems," he said.

Local activists prevented the elephants from leaving a facility near Kanchanaburi a month ago. They suspect some of the elephants were born in the wild and want DNA checks to ensure they really are captive-bred. However the government has rejected this.

The activists also fear the elephants would suffer in their new homes at Sydney's Taronga Park Zoo and Melbourne Zoo, partly because of the colder climate.

Provincial Administration Department official Thanakom Thannat, in charge of animal registration, said the department had no authority to conduct DNA tests on the elephants, as requested by Friends of the Asian Elephant and Kanchanaburi conservationists.

Thanakom called the NGOs' suspicion that the elephants may have been taken from the wild "a heresy" - because the Australian zoos had spent 18 months acquiring the young jumbos from major ranches and the elephants' identity was done to state procedures.

Local conservationists delivered a letter to the Australian embassy on Monday in which they pointed out that the Senate's Environment Commission and the Parliament agreed last year that DNA tests should be conducted to create transparency for the Thai public.

The Australian zoos, meanwhile, say legal action will only be taken "as a last resort" against activists blocking delivery of elephants to Sydney and Melbourne.

A spokesman for the zoos said yesterday any talk of legal action to recover transport costs was "premature at best".

Mr Williams told the AAP news agency the cost of the failed transport operation was "in the order of hundreds of thousands of dollars". However, an embassy spokesperson told The Nation last week the cost was Bt49 million (A$1.7 million), for the rent of a cargo plane that sat idle at Don Muang airport.

The zoos say they have met all regulations to bring the elephants to Australia, which Williams said was a "vital conservation project". He was quoted as saying that opposition to the transfer did not make sense.

Meanwhile, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry will work with Bangkok officials to try to stop elephants being brought to the capital to tout for business - by reinforcing 17 related laws to punish mahouts.

Minister Yongyuth Tiyapairat said it was agreed that a clearer and more effective elephant welfare law should also be drafted. In the mean time, a special unit called "Mister Chang" would be set by the BMA and officials from other agencies to oversee elephant issues via the hotline 02 224-2958 or 1555 to help agencies reinforce existing laws, Yongyuth said.

"From now on, persons taking elephants to wander city streets would be arrested and punished by related 17 acts, punishable by both a jail term and fine up to Bt80,000. And the beasts would be taken into government care at an elephant ranch in Lampang," the minister said.

The Nation, Agencies

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