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Baby elephant taken for tourist trade as mother shot in Thailand

20/03/2013 23:32:53
March 2013. A baby elephant was taken and its pregnant mother killed in a Thailand national park, as the tourist industry continues to deplete the country's declining elephant population.

Incidents like this one, in the Petchaburi area, are not uncommon, with adult elephants being killed and the young taken. The baby is most likely destined for one of Thailand's many resorts where tourists can take part in elephant treks or watch elephants performing.

Philip Mansbridge, CEO of Care for the Wild, which runs the animal-tourist website, said: "It is both tragic and ironic that this trade continues under the noses of the CITES conference in Bangkok. The world has gathered in a bid to protect animals, and the Thai Prime Minister opened the conference by saying that no country respects elephants more than Thailand - and yet Thailand's tourist trade has taken yet another victim.

Elephants and dolphins taken from the wild
"Tourists visiting Thailand need to start thinking about where the elephant they are riding, or watching ride a bicycle, has come from. Just like anyone visiting a dolphinarium needs to think about where those dolphins came from, we need to wake up to the fact that to feed the tourist trade, animals are being plucked from the wild - and many more killed."

One baby elephant is reported to be worth US$40,000 to an elephant camp. The elephant would then be 'trained' using the brutal Phajaan method, which effectively breaks the elephant to ensure it is safe to be around tourists.

Illegal exports of live elephants
Edwin Wiek, of the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT), says that elephants are also supplied by Thailand to China and Australia. Chinese and Japanese resorts are also supplied with elephants from Thailand that have been illegally transferred to Laos, with an estimated 38 going to China alone this year.

Fewer than 2,400 wild elephants left in Thailand
It is estimated that there are now fewer than 2,400 wild elephants left in the wild in Thailand, with similar numbers in captivity.

Philip Mansbridge said: "We've got a choice to make. Do we want to see animals in zoos, or in the wild? Because with some species like elephants, tigers, rhinos and even lions, it's starting to get to the point where we won't have a choice - we'll only be able to see them in captivity. And that's going to be a very sad world to live in."

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