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Thai Customs Seize Ivory Hidden in Shipment of Frozen Fish

By ecoterra / Published: April 03, 2011


Thai customs on Friday seized two tonnes of ivory worth over $3.3 million hidden in a shipment of frozen fish - equivalent to more than 120 elephants killed. The shipment was headed for a shipping company in Bangkok's suburbs.

Officials found 247 tusks concealed among hundreds of boxes of mackerel apparently from Kenya, in a boat at Bangkok Port on the Chao Phraya river, the customs department said.

The haul - which officials said was the biggest in a year and equated to at least 123 elephants killed - weighed 2,033 kilos (4,472 pounds) and was displayed by authorities in the Thai capital.

It was the first time customs officials had found ivory coming into Thailand by boat and said it showed smugglers were being forced to change tactics.

ECOTERRA Intl. had since two years warned that their intelligence reports had revealed that ivory is being smuggled on Thai, Korean, Indian and Yemeni fishing vessels from the East African coasts to the Middle as well as to the Far East. Especially vessels carrying poached fish or contraband charcoal often conceal and smuggle the illegal ivory as well as blood-diamonds from the central African war-zones as well as other precious minerals from Somalia.

The 247 tusks, some of them up to two metres long, were found Wednesday during an X-ray scan of a shipping container labelled as frozen mackerel among 100 boxes in a boat at Bangkok Port on the Chao Phraya River, customs officials said.
"This is the biggest lot that we have ever seen," said Prasong Poontaneat, the Customs Department director-general. "By looking at the length and appearances, they could not simply cut the ivory off, but had to kill the creatures to get these tusks."

Poaching of elephants in Central and Eastern Africa has intensified in recent years, with much of the illegal ivory exported to Asia.

Kenya Wildlife Services Director Julius Kip'ngetich said DNA tests on the seized ivory will be conducted to establish if they were from Kenya.

He added they intend to introduce sniffer dogs at the Mombasa port as part of a measure to curb the illegal shipping of the ivory.

"We will have to work with KRA in an effort to address the problem especially at the Coast. It seems they are now using the route," he said on the phone.

"It is another sign that steady collaboration by Thai and African law enforcement is foiling ivory traffickers who are losing huge amounts of money, and that's where you have to hit them to stop them - in the pocket," said the Freelands group's director, Steven Galster. Freedland said the seizure marked the ninth major enforcement action by authorities in Kenya and Thailand since a collaboration was agreed in November 2010. More than four tonnes of ivory have been confiscated since then, it said.

International trade in ivory was banned by the international Convention In Trade of Endangered Species of fauna and flora (CITES) in 1989, but seizures have risen dramatically in the past five years.

Experts say traffickers use Thailand to smuggle ivory, rough or carved, into neighbouring China - where it is ground up in traditional medicine - and Japan. But some also ends up in the United States and Europe.

This past December also saw two incidents involving airline passengers attempting to smuggle ivory out of Kenya and into Thailand. In the second week of December, two Singaporeans bound for Bangkok were arrested at Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) after officials found 92 kilograms (nearly 42 pounds) of raw ivory within the men's four suitcases. John Yap Chan, 48, and Nah Choon Quee, 47, had flown into Kenya from Malawi and stayed two days before they tried to leave Africa with their precious cargo. Only two weeks later, a 32 year old Thai woman, also headed for Bangkok, was arrested at JKIA after authorities found 19.5 kg (nearly nine pounds) of ivory in her baggage. She had arrived from Mozambique and was carrying two elephant tusks, necklaces, and 105 bangle bracelets.


Copyright © 2011, ECOTERRA Intl., NewsBlaze, Daily News

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INTERNATIONAL ACTION against the
Chiang Mai Night Safari Zoo Project

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Intl. Alliance against the Kenya / Thailand wildlife deal

15.000 signatures were already handed over to the Kenya President as well as to the Thai Government - please continue to support the struggle !

 

Updates  08.06.2002 - 07.11.2005

 

08.06.2002  Thailand: The racism ...

07.04.2004  Lack of animals ...

26.04.2004  The bloody hand ...

09.05.2004  Thai Zoo 'lacks papers' ...

24.02.2005  PRESS STATEMENT ...

17.04.2005  Nonsense-Zoo Opening Stalled ...

20.04.2005  Dr. Plodprasop Suraswadi is ...

21.04.2005  Thai Wildlife Deal Down ...

21.05.2005  Senators want animal import plan scrapped

03.06.2005  Kenya Might Not Give Animals

05.06.2005  Chiang Mai Night Safari Project opening to controversy

07.07.2005  Experts oppose transfer of animals to Thailand

28.07.2005  Protests in Kenya against Thai wildlife deal

12.08.2005  Turbulence ahead for THAI

17.08.2005  Big loss for Thai Airways

07.11.2005  Thai PM due in Kenya Tuesday for trade, wildlife talks


Update: 07.11.2005

Thai PM due in Kenya Tuesday for trade, wildlife talks

NAIROBI, Nov. 7 (Xinhuanet) -- Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is due in Kenya late Tuesday to enhance trade ties with the east African nation and sign a controversial animal delivery deal for a Thai zoo, officials said here Monday.

Thaksin will make a three-day visit to Keny a and a one-day stopover in Turkey Friday on his way back to Thailand, said officials at Kenya's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

According to the tentative program issued by the Kenyan Foreign Ministry, the two countries will sign an agreement on a joint trade commission and a joint communique at State House Nairobi on Wednesday.

The Thai prime minister is expected to meeting Kenyan industrialists, visit world-famous Masai Mara Game Reserve and theongoing Thai Exhibition in Nairobi.

Sources said Thailand sees the east African nation as a gateway for its increasing exports to other African nations.

Thaksin is also scheduled to sign a memorandum of understanding with Kenya under which Kenya was to supply Thailand with up to 135 animals for the Chiang Mai Night Safari Park, a pet project of theprime minister aimed at boosting tourism in his home province of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand.

Kenya's agreement to export animals to Thailand in exchange for Asian animals has been criticized by animal protection groups for failing to state which animals will be involved in the swap.

It is widely believed that many of the African animals are protected species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which might be poorly suited to Thailand's tropical climate.

Although CITES allows for trade in some protected species between zoos, the trade must be sanctioned by CITES officials first.

Late last year, Thaksin requested Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki to donate 300 wild animals -- among them white rhinos, serval cats,cheetahs and lions -- to the 1.3 sq. km. Chiang Mai Night Safari Zoo, which was then under construction and expected to host 1,700 additional animals from Thailand's own national parks and 40 more from Australia.

Since the matter came in public, it has elicited emotional reactions from those opposing the move, with Kenya's Tourism Ministry confirming that it has received "tons of letters" from all over the country to oppugn the plan.

Welcome boost for night safari

BANGKOK POST 7th Nov 2005

The Chiang Mai Night Safari Park, part of a mega project aimed at turning the province into ``Chiang Mai World'', has received a boost with Kenya agreeing to provide Thailand with 135 African wild animals. Plodprasop Suraswadi, chairman of the government committee in charge of the Night Safari project, said Kenya officially notified Thai authorities that it would sign a memorandum of understanding with Thailand on the matter. Under the MoU, Kenya will supply 135 wild animals to Thailand, which in turn has pledged to provide financial assistance worth 20 million baht to Kenya so it can set up an elephant fund. He said the fund would help Kenya tackle the problem of rogue elephants.

The MoU would be signed by the two governments during Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's official four-day visit to Kenya, which starts tomorrow.

The countries have also agreed to boost technical cooperation. Kenya will send its officials to study the management of wildlife and marine life in Thailand, Mr Plodprasop said. He said Kenya had agreed in principle to the MoU and a letter stating its intent had already been handed to the prime minister's secretary-general Prommin Lerdsuriyadet.

``As for the animals, I can't remember which species will be sent. Questions have poured in asking whether or not some rare black rhinos, costing about 10 million baht each, will be among the animals. We're betting they will be,'' he said.

Mr Plodprasop shrugged off heavy criticism from wildlife activists who have expressed concern over the plight of the wild animals. He said Thailand was capable of caring for the animals and that the handover would not violate international wildlife or environmental laws.

He said the government of Kenya was willing to provide the animals to Thailand, just as it would to Australia, China, European nations or the US.

``Thailand didn't beg for the animals. China has also given pandas to us. As for non-governmental organisations [NGOs] who oppose this, let me face them, I am not afraid of them,'' he said.

Several major NGOs have expressed strong opposition to the use of wildlife for entertainment. They also questioned the deal's transparency. One key concern is opposition to the export and exchange of wildlife, particularly species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species list, such as white rhinos, lions and Sita tigers.

http://www.bangkokpost.com/071105_News/07Nov2005_news04.php

Update: 17.08.2005

Big loss for Thai Airways

BANGKOK, Thailand (eTurboNews 17. Aug. 2005) -- Thai Airways International said Tuesday it suffered a huge loss of about $116 million in the April-June quarter.

In the same period last year, the national carrier recorded a loss of 913 million baht.

Last week Thursday, the company's president, Kanok Abhiradee, was suspended from active duty for three months and replaced by a committee headed by an interim chief due to the massive loss.

The airline has been facing a turbulent time caused by skyrocketing oil prices, fears of another tsunami and questionable financial reporting. 

Thai Airways International business performance went from an A rating in the first quarter, to a B rating in the second quarter and finally to a C rating in the third.

12.08.2005

See another piece of good news, which works for the DON'T FLY THAI campaign ! Let us keep THAI AIRLINES deep in the red until Thailand realizes and rectifies their stand towards the animal and human world.

DON'T FLY THAI & DON'T BUY THAI !

NO to wildlife imports from Africa - NO to whaling - NO to the dolphin slaughter - NO to the illegal trade of wildlife products and NO to human rights violations against the hill tribes ! Thailand must live up to this now !

12 August 2005

Turbulence ahead for THAI

Somchainuk Engtrakul, interim president of Thai Airways International (THAI), will have to make painful decisions if he is to steer the national carrier away from the storm clouds and bring it back to friendly skies, Business Reporters write.

Kanok Abhiradee could not keep his seat in the cockpit of Thai Airways International as the airline’s business performance plummeted into the red. It went from an A rating in the first quarter, to a B rating in the second quarter and finally to a C rating in the third.

The turbulence that rocked the national flag carrier came in the form of skyrocketing oil prices, fears of another tsunami and questionable financial reporting.

The airline’s board of directors lost its patience with Kanok because he was too slow to react to the adverse conditions in the business environment, which precipitated the deterioration of THAI’s balance sheet.

The airline’s third quarter performance will report losses of billions of baht. (41 baht = 1 USD)

The crisis at the national carrier prompted political intervention late on Wednesday. The board took drastic action and clipped Kanok’s wings.

It appointed one of its own, Somchainuk Engtrakul, to take over the controls while Kanok was moved to a less demanding position in sales and marketing.

Kanok’s tenure with the airline was due to expire next year anyway.

Three analysts polled by Dow Jones Newswires forecast that THAI would post a net loss of between Bt3.27 billion and Bt3.61 billion in the third quarter, compared with a net loss of Bt836.3 million in the same period last year.

Wanchai Sarathulthat, the chairman of THAI, said its performance in the third quarter was undermined by surging jet fuel prices and one-off expenses for salary adjustments and early retirement programmes.

Analysts expect the company to record extra staff-related expenses of Bt1.5 billion due to the company’s recent salary restructuring, which was retroactive to the beginning of the fiscal year.

Earlier this week, The Nation reported that Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra instructed the airline to postpone its acquisition of two Airbus 340 aircraft scheduled for delivery this year in case it further undermines the trade and current account deficits.

Source: The Nation & eTurboNews Thailand

28.07.2005

Protests in Kenya against Thai wildlife deal 

28. July 2005 - Nairobi / Kenya / East-Africa

Please find below a Press Release from Nairobi, where Kenyan and international groups protested yesterday and today against a deal, which involves the capture of wild animals from Kenya and their transport into the Chiang Mai Night Zoo in Thailand. The protest coincided with a Thai trade and export promotion and left those, who are involved in the shady wildlife deal, speechless and ashamed. While even the Thai Senators, who recently visited Kenya on a fact finding mission requested their own Prime Minister to abstain from the ill designed project, certain circles in Kenya and Thailand have not yet come clear and clean.


PRESS RELEASE (pictures and text free for publication after 16h00 - 28.07.2005)

Leaders of many Kenyan organisations protest in front of the Royal Thai Embassy in Nairobi against a deal whereby wildlife species shall be captured from the wild and brought into a night zoo in Thailand (28.07.2005)

Night Vigil in protest against sending wildlife to Thailand in front of Hotel Intercontinental in Nairobi, where Thai business people made deals in an export promotion excercise behind closed doors. (27.07.2005)

P.O. Box 27689
00506 Nairobi , Kenya

 
PRESS STATEMENT
 
NO KENYAN WILDLIFE FOR THAILAND ZOO.
 
The Kenya and international coalition against the export of wildlife to Thailand , thousands of concerned Kenyans and NGOs around the world strongly oppose the Kenya government’s intention to export 300 of Kenya ’s free-ranging wild animals to Chiang Mai Night Safari zoo in Thailand .  We believe Kenya ’s wildlife should remain in the wild in Kenya for the benefit of all Kenyans. They are part of our magnificent national heritage. Outlined below are the reasons behind our concerns:

  • While Thailand was nearly kicked out of the CITES Convention , Kenya has achieved international recognition and respect for its conservation policies that have directly led to an increase in wildlife based tourism. This move to export wild animals threatens to negate Kenya`s unique position and could lead to a damaging decline in tourist numbers.
  • Kenya has always guarded against the exportation of its flora and fauna. By exporting these 300 animals, Kenya will be supporting bio-piracy which it has always stood against. That would be a dangerous precedent.
  • Kenya’s wild animals have adapted to our local environment over millennia. There are very real dangers in taking them to an alien environment where they will be susceptible to potentially fatal diseases (Zoo tigers in Thailand have recently been hit by Avian Flu resulting in the death of around 100 animals), let alone the trauma of capture, break up of family groups, tranquilization, transportation which all amounts to unbearable and cruel distress.
  • The exercise of capturing animals, caging them, and transporting them over long distances is a procedure that should only be undertaken when absolutely necessary for the benefit of the animals. The capture of wild animals for overseas zoos, which will result in excessive stress on these animals and risks high mortality is neither essential nor necessary for the Kenya wildlife.
  • Kenya’s wildlife population declined between 40-60% from 1977 to 1994.  This decline is estimated to be, in all probability, even higher now due to the rampant illegal bush meat trade, excision of forests, and widespread encroachment into parks and reserves by human settlements.
  • The animals involved in the export deal include endangered species such as the White Rhino and Cheetah.
  • Other species include Lions, Leopards, Spotted hyenas, Serval cats, Silver backed jackals, Maasai giraffe, Topis, Elands, Waterbucks, Impalas, Grant’s gazelles, Thompson’s gazelles, Wildebeests, Dikdiks, Gerenuks, Kudus, Common Zebra, Buffaloes, Hippos, Reticulated Giraffes, Warthogs.  Many of these species are already under pressure, particularly from the escalating bush meat trade. Bird species include Lesser flamingos, Yellow billed storks, Marabou storks, Black breasted Kori bustard and Crested cranes.
  • We understand that mahouts from Thailand may also come to Kenya to ‘train’ elephants. According to evidence that we have seen, such training of elephants frequently involves cruelty by beating the animals into submission. Kenya should not be part of such an abhorrent process.
  • Kenya has always endeavoured to alleviate human poverty and protect wild animals. Wildlife, through ecotourism, has the potential to create employment. With the streamlining of policy and legislation, more and more Kenyans stand to benefit from wildlife management as the best natural land use. A benefit they will be denied if Kenya’s wildlife is exported.
  • As Kenyans we need to promote tourism at home as opposed to tourism of Kenya’s animals elsewhere. We should encourage tourists to come and experience our country’s hospitality, the majesty of our diverse environments and the beauty of our wildlife for themselves - not take Kenya’s wildlife to another country to benefit that country at the expense of Kenyans.

We Kenyans and the international groups named hereunder are totally opposed to the export of wild animals from Kenya. We are therefore appealing to His Excellency the President to urgently reconsider this matter and rescind the decision by the Minister for Tourism and Wildlife – Morris Dzoro.
 
We are hereby calling to join hearts, minds and voices as well as resources and publicly call for a boycott of any trading with Thailand, to boycott any Thai products and services until the Thai Government publicly and officially denounces that it would not now and never again try to receive in any way wild animals from the wildlands of Africa for their zoo facilities
 
Signed by

Local and International Organisations:

For and on behalf of the petitioners:

Intl. Alliance against the Kenya / Thailand wildlife deal

African Environmental Outlook for Youth 
AfriCat Foundation
Akha Heritage Foundation
Amboseli Tsavo Conflict Resolution Committee 
Animal Rights Action Network (ARAN)
As You Like It (Safaris) Ltd.
BORN FREE USA and The Born Free Foundation UK
Centre d'Ethique - Planète Vie
Cheli & Peacock Safaris Ltd.
David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust 
Eastern Africa Environmental Network
ECO ETHICS INTERNATIONAL UNION - NAIROBI CHAPTER
ECOTERRA Kenya and ECOTERRA Intl.
Foundation of Nairobi Hospice - Holland
Green Alive 
International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)
Japanese NGO - Maasai Project 
Kenya Alliance of Resident Associations (KARA)
Kenya Association of Tour Operators (KATO)
Kenya Society for the Protection & Care of Animals (KSPCA)
Kipeto Landowners Association 
Kitengela Landowners Association 
Marchig Animal Welfare Trust 
NARC Youth Congress
ONE STOP YOUTH INFORMATION RESOURCE CENTER
ONE VOICE - France
Pastoralists Information Bureau 
Pegasus Foundation
Sunworld Safaris
The Kenya Human Wildlife Conflict Management Network
WINDROSE Intercontinental Travels
Youth Center for Biodiversity Conservation 
Youth for Conservation
YOUTH ORGANIZATION FOR A CLEAN ENVIRONMENT AND DEVELOPMENT (YOCED)

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Boycott and Petition signatories

Coalition for an Injunction against the Kenya / Thailand wildlife deal


ECO ETHICS INTERNATIONAL UNION - NAIROBI CHAPTER
ECOTERRA Kenya and ECOTERRA Intl.
Green Alive 

SPONSOSHIP CO-ORDINATOR:

AUDITORS:

Gladwell Otieno

Transparency International-Kenya
PO Box 198, 00200 City Square, Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: 254-2-2727763/5, Fax: 254-2-2729530
Cell: 0733-834659 e-mail: tikenya@wananchi.com  Web: www.tikenya.org 
3rd Floor, A.C.K. Garden House, 1st Ngong Avenue off Bishops Road next to the Fairview Hotel

 

07.07.2005

Experts oppose transfer of animals to Thailand

The Standard
Thursday July 7, 2005

By Dauti Kihura

Conservationists were up in arms yesterday after word went round that the Government had finalised plans to transfer wild animals to Thailand.

In a story appearing in the Bangkok Post early this week, the Government is said to have confirmed "it will provide African wildlife for the Chiang Mai Night Safari Park despite the delay".

The information was attributed to Thailand’s Deputy Foreign Minister Preecha Laohapongchana.

Laohapongchana is reported to have said: "There is still no indication when the shipment would be made."

The minister’s assertion was also backed by the director of Chiang Mai Park who said: "I’ve received confirmation that Kenya will stick to its plan to ship wild animals to Thailand."

The closest the Government came to owning up to the controversial animal transfer was on Tuesday when the Tourism Minister Morris Dzoro told journalists that there was nothing wrong in transferring wild animals anywhere so long as they were taken to a safe place.

Since last October, when President Mwai Kibaki travelled to Thailand and reportedly made a promise to Thai Prime Minister, there has been talk of 300 wild animals being translocated to that country.

During the Bangkok meeting, President Kibaki allegedly promised the Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, that Kenya would provide his country with the wildlife.

The Bangkok Post said the Chiang Mai park is a project launched by Prime Minister Thaksin in his home province.

Conservationists are accusing the Government of mortgaging the country’s wildlife to a country that does not even have a reputation for safeguarding wildlife.

Ms Winnie Kiiru, the East African regional representative of Born Free Foundation, said she was shocked to learn of the intended translocation.

"The Government is engaged in underhand means to give away the country’s treasures."

She also castigated the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) for seemingly "allowing such a thing to happen and not saying anything".

Connie Maina, the communications officer at KWS stated she was not aware of the said transfer.

"Generally zoos around the world keep animals in pathetic conditions, but Thailand zoos are particularly notorious," said Kiiru.

"Why would the Government think of removing the wildlife from their natural habitat to a zoo?"

Something is not quite adding up, observed the conservationist.


05.06.2005

Chiang Mai Night Safari Project opening to controversy

The government says the critics are wrong _ wildlife conservation is a priority in Thailand and the Night Safari will play an important role, writes SUPRADIT KANWANICH

The moat for the Asian elephant display is now completed at the Night Safari.

Prime Minister Taksin Shinawatra, after visiting the Singapore Night Safari, had an idea that Chiang Mai should have such a tourist attraction to accommodate local and foreign wildlife lovers. He appointed Dr Plodprasop Surasvadi, the former permanent secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, to supervise the establishment of the Chiang Mai Night Safari Project (CMNSP). Bernard Harrison and Friends Ltd. of Singapore, the designers of the Singapore park, were also commissioned to design the Chiang Mai project, at a cost of around 20 million baht. Construction began in 2003 and the park is scheduled to open late this year or early next year.

The CMNSP site is located at the outskirts of the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, another major natural tourist attraction. The project area covers about 725 rai in Hang Dong and Muang districts of Chiang Mai. The average altitude is 546 metres above mean sea level.

The main objective of the project is to create a world class night zoo for Thai and foreign tourists, the first in Thailand and only the third in the world. The first was in Singapore and the second in Guangzhou, China. There may soon be a fourth built in Malaysia.

Another objective was to develop eco-tourism in the area around the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. It's also hoped that the park will be an important mechanism to promote public awareness and understanding of wildlife conservation.

The predominant architectural style is of the Lanna period. The park will boast a reception hall with a natural education centre, souvenir shops and several types of restaurants. After viewing northern Thai classical dance performances, at dusk tourists will be taken in 80-seat opened-sided trams to the first of the 3-part safari, the Savannah Safari, which is set on about 375 rai. Here visitors can see animals in the open field _ African elephants, tapirs, giraffes, zebras, ostriches, hyenas and even white rhinos. There will also be about 50 elephants for riding.

The second part of the safari is the Predator Prowl, set on about 187 rai. Tourists will be taken in closed air-conditioned trams to see carnivorous animals such as lions, tigers, Asiatic black bears, jackals, wild dogs and crocodiles.

The last part is Swan Lake, on about 62.5 rai, where mute swans and whooping swans are on display. The lake is surrounded by the Jaguar Trail, which will be travelled mostly by South American animals such as the Brazilian tapir, sloth bear and small clawed otter.

The project is being built with state funds, but after the seventh year at the latest is meant to be self-sustaining. There will be about 102 full-time personnel and 56 part-time. Locals will be given priority for employment.

The project investment was about 1.3 billion baht, while the profits of the project in the first year are estimated to be about 232 million baht. This is projected to increase to 261 million in the fifth year of operation and to 302 million baht in the 10th year.

Entrance fees have not yet been officially determined, but according to one source will run about 400 baht for foreign tourists, 200 baht for Thais and 100 baht for Chiang Mai residents.

All allegations are untrue

Though it has yet to open, the CMNSP is already deep in controversy because of deals worked out by the government to trade Thai elephants and tigers for species from other countries (see main front page story). Local and international animal welfare and conservationist groups are opposed to taking koalas and other marsupials from Australia in exchange for 9 young Asian elephants and trading about 300 animals from Kenya for Asian tigers and the services of Thai elephant trainers (mahouts).

Dr Plodprasop, now a vice minister attached to the Prime Minister's Office, told Sunday Perspective:"We have all the answers for those who might be puzzled about or against our project. All the allegations are untrue. We do care about the animals and the environment," he said.

Dr Plodprasop said that on the whole, the night safari was meant to be a wildlife conservation project, and will focus on the study and breeding of endangered species.

He added that the project would have the most modern animal hospital in Southeast Asia, run by Chiang Mai University. Faculty and students from the veterinary college will oversee healthcare of the animals. It will provide a good opportunity for students to practice their skills in the field, said Dr Plodprasop.

Dr Plodprasop said in the initial stages the CMNSP did not intend to take animals from Africa, but a meeting late last year between Justice Minister Suwat Lipatapallop, who was supervising tourism at the time, and Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki to promote tourism between the two countries resulted in an agreement that Kenya would provide about 300 wild animals of 40-50 species to Thailand. He said that only 4-5 species were subject to trade restrictions under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES).

Originally the project planned to buy exotic animals born under captivity in Thailand for exhibition and build up the animal population with their offspring, but the Kenya offer was too good to pass up.

Dr Plodsaprop said it was not true, as some have claimed, that Kenya is getting the short end of the deal. In addition to the five Asian tigers and the mahouts, also included in the deal was training in Thailand for Kenyan government officers in tourism, and particularly eco-tourism, and related activities such as hotel management.

Allegations that the project would take water from nearby villages are also untrue, he said. The night safari will use water from 15 deep artesian wells which have been dug on the project grounds. Five reservoirs on the site were already in existence before the project and were modified to store enough water for the dry season. Dr Plodprasop said the project was willing to dig additional artesian wells for the villagers.

A home for wayward elephants

Dr Plodsaprop revealed that the government has also set aside about 600 million baht to run an Elephant Park on about 6,000 rai next to the CMNSP. The purpose of the park is partly to provide a home for the domesticated elephants which roam all over the country with their mahouts.

The Forest Industry Organisation cannot solve the problem alone, said Dr Plodsaprop.

"When the new project runs, no elephants will roam the cities begging. The owners of the elephants will be invited to join the project or to sell their elephants."

The park will also serve to heighten the public's awareness and knowledge of elephant conservation, and will include an authentic Karen village. The elephants will be set in their natural habitats, roaming freely on a large tract of land, with a healthy and natural diet. Their feeding grounds will be rotated and tourists will be allowed to observe the elephants' daily life.

"We need a large area because elephants need room to move," he said. He added that the project is not only for elephants but other wildlife as well. He said the National Park Department and the Royal Forestry Department now have an abundance of illegally trafficked wildlife which has been confiscated and kept under captivity, such as gaurs and benteng (both are types of wild cattle), gibbons, monkeys, several species of deer, birds and more than 200 bears of three species. Breeding centres nationwide can also supply many kinds of animals such as endangered white-winged woodducks, several species of pheasants and talking mynahs.

Dr Plodprasop said all the animals in the project would be tagged for identification. All animals before coming to the project would be kept under a close quarantine process.

The grounds of the park will be reforested in areas where necessary, and vegetation to provide an appropriate diet for all animals will also be cultivated as needed. The environment will be rehabilitated in other ways to accomodate the animals, such as in making checkdams over the streams, small reservoirs, swamps and manmade saltlicks.

In addition to providing an environmentally suitable home for the animals, said Dr Plodsaprop, the CMNSP and the Elephant Park are meant to generate income, especially for the residdents of 30 nearby villages. In all, the parks will employ about 600 people. Dr Plodsaprop said he welcomed constructive comments on the projects from all concerned.

 

ANIMAL SWAPPING UNDER FIRE
Bangkok Post 05. June 2005

A number of local and international conservationist groups have come out to denounce bilateral agreements Thailand has entered into for the trade of rare animals, writes SUPRADIT KANWANICH 

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra went to Canberra in July last year to open talks on free trade and came back with, among other things, an agreement to exchange native animal species. Australia agreed to send 40 animals, representing eight species, notably marsupials such as koalas and kangaroos, to Thailand. In return, Thailand promised nine young Asian elephants aged 3-8 years, eight females and a male, for delivery to zoos in Australia and New Zealand.

Included among the animals designated to be sent packing off to Thailand were two pairs of koalas, an aboreal marsupial species. One pair is supposed to be housed at the Chiang Mai Zoo and another pair to be exhibited at the Chiang Mai Night Safari, which is now under construction.

However, the animal exchange plan was put on hold in response to pressure from several international animal welfare groups, who said they were puzzled over the logic of the deal and were asking for clarification of the details.

There has been similar opposition to another animal swap approved at high government levels. When Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki visited Thailand in October last year, a deal was made calling for Kenya to provide more than 300 animals, including African elephants, hippos, lions and rhinos. In exchange, Thailand would offer some Asian tigers along with expertise in pachyderm training. The Kenyan government wants Thai mahouts to train elephants to take part in tourism promotion and also to help in human-elephant problems, such as in the control of wild animals that stray into farmlands.

 

Reception Hall of the new Chiang Mai Night Safari. Construction on the project is nearing completion.

 

Rare African white rhino and her baby.

 

Australian koala with her young.

The African animals sent to Thailand under the deal were supposed to be captured in February from Kenyan national parks and wildlife reserves and sent to the Chiang Mai Night Safari.

But no sooner was this deal announced than it drew an uproar from African and international NGOs concerned with wildlife welfare and conservation, who said they wanted to meet with acting Kenyan Tourism and Wildlife Minister Raphael Tutu to discuss the donation of the animals. They were unhappy with their government for the failure to consult them and wanted the minister to explain the criteria used in arriving at the number of animals involved and what the country stood to gain and lose.

The opposition included the Born Free Foundation, Care for the Wild, Youth for Conservation, Friends of the Nairobi National Park and the World Society for the Protection of Animals. The groups argued that keeping the animals in zoos would adversely affect their welfare and also that Thailand is among the countries that does not respect international conventions regarding endangered animals and could not be trusted to protect them.

Some animal welfare groups in London and Switzerland have said that zoos in Asia are in general below the accepted international standards. There have also been criticisms of the Night Safari, which was the brainchild of the prime minister himself.

The government disputes allegations that anything is amiss in the treatment of wildlife in Thailand, and maintains that the Night Safari will give a boost to the country's conservation and breeding capabilities (see related story page 5).Dr Plodprasop Surasvadi, a vice minister attached to the Prime Minister's Office who is in charge of the Night Safari, said recently that the two deals will go through as planned.

TREMENDOUS STEP BACKWARDS

The animal exchange also faces stiff condemnation from the Pan Africa Sanctuaries Alliance (Pasa), an umbrella body for wildlife organisations in Africa.

In his letter in January to Kenya Wildlife Services director Julius Kipng'etich, Pasa spokesperson Doug Cress said Pasa and other conservationist groups were shocked and dismayed at the move to donate rhinos and other wildlife in exchange for tigers and elephant trainers. He said that the proposed deal, which presumably was arranged to boost political relations as well as trade and tourism prospects with Southeast Asia, was a tremendous step backward for Kenyan conservation and will ultimately damage Kenyan tourism, perhaps fatally.

Pasa plans to lobby for more international support to block the deal. Cress said that similar exchanges between East African and Southern Asian governments had been attempted in the past and each prompted international criticism and condemnation.

He addded that Pasa was reviewing seriously whether to support a crucial international five-day wildlife workshop set in June at Mount Kenya Lodge. Cress said its members were not comfortable supporting a government that paid such little respect to wildlife and he felt that if his group withdraws from the workshop certain other conservation and environmental groups will follow suit.

An African elephant expert, Daphne Sheldrick, who has devoted herself to elephant conservation in Kenya for more than 50 years, said Kenya does not need Asian tigers, as they are not an indigenous species, and that training elephants was abuse of the animals. She added that it was barbaric to transfer animals from their natural habitat to captivity.

Acting Minister Tuju has said that the plans to donate animals to Thailand, including some on the endangered list such as the white rhino, cheetah and lion, had not been finalised and the Kenyan cabinet had yet to decide whether or not to honour the pledge. He added that the animals could only be donated as a gift from the government.

The minister admitted that the Thai government had requested the animals and said there was nothing wrong with giving them a few of those species which were in abundance in exchange for returns that will directly benefit the people.

Kenyan wildlife is under pressure from poachers and sport hunters. The Kenyan parliament in late December last year voted to amend the existing laws to allow sport hunting and authorise farmers to kill wildlife that strays into their farms. Nearly all conservationist groups were opposed to the action and praisedf President Kibaki for his veto of the amendment.

However, some Kenyan wildlife officials countered by saying that many wild animal species in Kenya are now facing overpopulation and that this could be "exploited", which would include the transfer of animals to interested countries.

TRADE DOESN'T MEET REQUIREMENTS

Concerning the proposed Thai-Australian animal swap, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) Australia and the Humane Society International (HSI) issued a joint statement saying that a consortium of zoos _ led by the Melbourne Zoo, Sydney's Taronga Zoo and the Auckland Zoo _ was refusing to reveal information given to the Australian government about its permit application to house the elephants.

The animal welfare groups oppose the importation of the nine Asian elephants and say the permit should be refused because it does not meet the requirements of the Australian Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act of 1999 and that, furthermore, they could not understand why the zoos would not provide them with the information they have asked for.

In a petition to Australia's Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Ian Campbell, demanding that he reject the zoo's application to import the elephants, the conservation coalition said the animals would suffer a myriad of physiological and psychological problems caused by poor living conditions and the Australian zoos' lack of experience in breeding Asian elephants. HSI also launched a campaign to e-mail Minister Campbell asking him to refuse to allow the import of the elephants.

HSI is also concerned that transporting the elephants long distances places them at enormous risk. Two elephants from Thailand died on their way to zoos in China last year.

Many conservationists say that elephants fare badly in zoos and suffer many health and stress related problems. In Europe and America, public opinion is turning against keeping elephants in zoos and a number have closed their elephant exhibits, recognising that no matter how hard they tried, they would not be able to cater to the complex needs of these emotional and intelligent animals.

Under Australia's strict laws, zoos are not allowed to import endangered species like Asian elephants purely for exhibition. That's why the zoos have put forward a breeding program to justify the imports.

Taronga Zoo, the biggest zoo in Australia, says on its website that it has committed funding of A$40 million dollars (about 1.2 billion baht) to display an "Asian Elephant Rainforest Project" and aims to breed a new Asian elephant population in Australia. It also plans to educate zoo visitors about the plight of elephants and to contribute to elephant conservation efforts in Thailand.

Conservationists say of the zoo's breeding plans that elephants very rarely breed in zoos and suffer high rates of infant mortality. Experts have predicted that the breeding programme would not generate enough offspring to make it viable. The zoos have publicly admitted that they would not be releasing any elephants they did manage to breed to the wild.

Minister Ian Campbell responded that he was about to make a decision on whether to allow the zoos' permit application.

"You have to be fair to the people involved, you also have to be fair to the elephants. There are animal welfare issues here (in Australia). We want to make sure the decision is made in a timely manner based on good advice," said the minister.

WHY MUST THEY BE CAGED?

Miss Soraida Salwala, a prominent elephant conservationist in Thailand and secretary-general of the Friends of the Asian Elephant, told Sunday Perspective that Thai elephants belong to Thailand and the Thai people.

"They (domestic Thai elephants) are acclimated to Thailand and roam freely with their mahouts. Why must they be caged for public viewing?" she asked.

She said it's not sensible to take 3-8 year old elephants for the breeding project when there has never been any viable research done to justify it. She said she accepted that both domestic and wild elephant populations in Thailand were diminishing due to deteriorating natural habitats, but that breeding programmes should only be managed in Thailand in a natural setting. She said there were only about 2,600 domestic elephants and about 2,000 wild elephants remaining in Thailand, but through proper management, replenishing the natural food and water resources for the elephants could be done.

"So do not regard them (the 9 young elephants) as surplus elephants. They still need love and care from their families and they need the Thai atmosphere. Especially they need the experience of learning from their families," she said.

"We're campaigning to stop human trafficking, but animal trafficking should also be stopped, legal or illegal. The young elephants are like our children," she added.

Suraphol Duangkhae, secretary-general of Wildlife Foundation of Thailand, said that he believes most of the young elephants earmarked for the trade to Australia were illegally trapped and that the exchange of rare animals for commercial purposes was no longer acceptable. He added that the relationship between animal dealers and zoo operators was quite close and that the zoos are profit-making organisations that rely on political and special interest groups. He said most zoos would go to any lengths to find exotic animals to attract the public, but hardly educate people about the importance of wildlife and preserving natural habitats.

The Senate Sub-Committee on Natural Resources will ask Prime Minister Taksin to make a compromise on the animal swapping deals, Sakhon Nakhon Senator Pensak Chagsuchinda, the chairperson of the sub-committee, told Perspective. She said the public and NGOs should be allowed to participate in decisions on the importation of wild animals. The sub-committee is also suggesting that there be appropriate legislation regarding the use of land in the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park for the Night Safari project.

Senator Pensak said the agreement between Kenya and Thailand should observe the principles of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) and that the wild animals provided to the Night Safari should be from species with abundant populations. She said the shipment and quarantine of the animals must be carefully carried out by experienced officials in both countries.

The Senate Committee on the Environment assigned Senator Pensak and Senator Vibul Chaemchuen to go to Nairobi in April to study the wildlife exchange agreement and to explore the reasons for the opposition to the deal. While there, they met with local wildlife conservation groups.

 

Update: 03.06.2005

While in Thailand some Senators push to abondon the idea, Kenya itself is still undecided. It is high time that professional ecologists take over the care for the wildlife in Kenya and away from business managers and veterinarians with no ethics.

The Thai Zoo Deal

Kenya Might Not Give Animals

Patrick Nzioka
Nairobi

Kenya might not donate 300 wild animals to Thailand, after all.

Reports in a Thai newspaper, Bangkok Post, says that senators will petition their government to abandon the plan that has met stiff opposition from animal welfare organisations.

The reports published on the newspaper's website www.bangkokpost.com /News/ last week, say the senators want to petition Thai's Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to scrap the plan.

Thai's Senate environment committee led by Mr Kaewsan Atipho, is reported to have criticised the Government's plan to import the animals, some of which are endangered species.

Wild animals roaming the savanna wilderness, they said, should not be captured and put into cages, especially those that are forbidden under the Cites treaty.

The committee is further reported to have expressed concern about Thailand's move to offer Kenya Sh79 million for a resolving conservation fund in exchange for the imported animals.

The report comes amid confirmation by the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, Ms Rebecca Nabutola, that a final decision on whether Kenya would donate its wildlife to a Zoo in Thailand was yet to be made.

The PS confirmed in a letter to one of the animal welfare organisations opposed to the donation of the national heritage of the Kenyan people that consultations over the issue were still going on.

In what she terms as putting in the right perspective the position of the Kenya government on the issue, Ms Nabutola said it was important that new ideas be welcomed in the management of wildlife and biodiversity.

The Government would at the same time consider all the international conventions on animal welfare to which it was a signatory before making the donation, she said.

"The Government is still studying the request by the Thai government. Rest assured that all the sentiments and concerns will be considered before a final decision is reached," said the PS in the signed letter dated May 23, 2005.

The animal welfare organisations had written to President Kibaki asking him to cancel the deal as it was not in the interest of Kenya.

The request for the 300 animals was made during President Kibaki's visit to Thailand last October.

The plan to export the white rhinos, cheetahs, lions and other types to Thailand's Chian Mai Night Safari Zoo has been opposed by Kenyans, with questions being asked as to whether it was a donation or a sale.

Animal welfare organisations opposed to the deal said it was unfair and would tarnish Kenya's image as a tourist destination. It had no economic benefit and was cruel to the animals, they added.

As part of the deal, the Thai government offered Kenya Sh79 million to set up a revolving conservation fund in exchange for the animals.

Kenya has an estimated 28,000 elephants and 458 rhinos, which needed protection, according to the welfare groups.

When they met Kenyan wildlife protection groups to discuss the issue, the Senators informed the NGOs that the decision to seek the importation was meant to improve relations between the two countries, and not to boost tourism in Thailand.

Since there was no memorandum of understanding on the issue, the Senators were of the opinion that the issue could not be hurried up.

They further divulged that no money has been transferred to Kenya as promised.

The Bangkok Post report says the deal might have been revised to leave out rhinos and other endangered species that are protected under the Cites treaty.

However, Senator Niboon Shamshoum who visited Kenya on a fact-finding mission is quoted as saying some endangered species were still on Thailand's wish list.

The project, the report adds, has faced stiff opposition from local people who rely on groundwater for consumption.

They also fear the zoo would take too much of their water, or contaminate it with animal droppings.

21.05.2005

NIGHT SAFARI / OPPOSITION MOUNTS 

Senators want animal import plan scrapped

Bangkok Post 21. May 2005

TUL PINKAEW

Senators will ask the government to abandon a plan to import hundreds of exotic animals from Kenya to Chiang Mai's night safari park.

They will file a petition with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra insisting the plan be scrapped.

The Senate environment committee, led by Kaewsan Atipho, criticised the government's plan to import more than 300 animals, including elephants, hippos, lions, rhinos and some other endangered species.

''Wild animals roaming the savanna wilderness should not be captured and put into cages, especially ones that are forbidden under the Cites treaty,'' said Mr Kaewsan, referring to the 1989 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species that regulates the wildlife trade.

The panel was also concerned about Thailand's move to offer Kenya US$1 million (40 million baht) to build an animal conservation centre in exchange for the imported animals.

Thailand's proposal to trade mahouts and tigers for Kenya's native animals has sparked howls of protest from conservationists and animals rights groups. The opening of the night safari scheduled for Songkran had to be postponed as a result.

Late last month the government tried to salvage the deal by sending a negotiation team to Kenya.

Kenyan officials say the deal has since been revised to include mainly zebras, giraffes and gazelles, and no rhinos or other endangered species.

However, Senator Niboon Shamshoum, a member of the Thai delegation, said some endangered species were still on Thailand's wish list.

Pol Gen Banharn Ko-anantakul of the government's sustainable tourism liaison office said the safari park would open once construction was complete and the animals from Kenya had been moved in, probably around year-end.

Chiang Mai's night safari park, based on Singapore's night safari zoo, was a project initiated by Mr Thaksin who claimed it would boost tourism in his home province. The project, however, has faced stiff opposition from local people who rely on groundwater for consumption. They fear the zoo would take too much of their water, or contaminate it with animal droppings.

21.04.2005

Thai Wildlife Deal with Kenya Down

A BIG THANK YOU to all our members and supporters worldwide, who had protested against the planned shameful wildlife deal between Kenya and Thailand.

Though the statements of Thai Senator Pensak Chagsuchinda were quiet clear, and the whole issue involving Kenya is most likely dead, it is understood that the Thai Government still wants to continue and try to gain the desired wildlife species elsewhere.

The alert situatuion  for Tanzania, Uganda, South-Africa and other African Nations therefore still is given and we urge all supporters in these countries to keep watch and a close link with us concerning newly emerging situations. Our friends in Australia are urged to step up their resistance against the Thai elephant import and the export of their Koalas and Kangaroos to Thailand and we will keep you updated.

Thai Senator Wiboon confirms that the Thai government continues searching for wildlife from Africa but promises to look into any wrongdoing of the Thai government. Photo: Copyright ECOTERRA Intl.

Thai Senator Pensak astonished that even India has abolished to give or receive wild animals as diplomatic gifts. Photo: Copyright ECOTERRA Intl.

Thai Wildlife Deal with Kenya Down

Chiang Mai / Nairobi 21. April 2005 (WTN) - Kenyan Wildlife Protection Groups stood like one wo/man in front of a high-level delegation from the Thai Senate, which now termed their visit to Kenya as being a mere fact-finding mission. The Thai senators realized very quickly that there was not a single argument they had brought up, which remained valid, after their argumentation for the wildlife deal was torn apart by Kenyan and international experts.

Though the earlier meeting of the Thai delegation with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), a parastatel, which actually is tasked with the protection of wildlife in Kenya, but has been adversly involved and instrumental in the whole saga, were again not revealed, the Thai representatives stated the following points very clear:

* No Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed concerning these
issues between the Government of Kenya and the Government of Thailand and
no money has been transfered.
* No Mahouts (Elephant Trainers) will be send to Kenya and the whole plan of
training Kenyan elephants to become domestic slaves is off.
* Thailand would never except any African Elephants to be send to Thailand.

Senator Pensak also ensured the Kenyan defenders of wildlife  that she herself would be on the side of the animals and Senator Dr. Wiboon Shamsheun, who is the Vice-Chairman of the Thai Senate Committee on Environment stated that it is the duty of the Senate of Thailand to correct wrongful governmental actions. If any action is taken in Thailand, however, e.g. to restrain such kind of private misuse of government money for ill-conceived projects like the Chian Mai Night Safari Zoo, remains to be seen. If Prime Minister would have any honour he would step down, is the opinion of many people in Thailand.

Though the Thai delegation tried to downplay the case by stating that it was a mere gesture to exchange some wildlife as a matter of creating friendship between the two nations, they were baffeled to learn that in other countries of their region, like in India,
there are now even laws in place which forbid this kind of antiquated governmental gifts in the form of donating wild animals.

The Thai senators also understood one point very clearly: They can not continue to just say: Well, we just requested some animals and it is entirely up to the Kenyan Government, if we get them. They realized that the ball is on the side of Thailand to finally shelf that horrible project and that face-saving games are out in Africa as well as in Asia. This had to be also realized by some local NGOs with international links, who first had tried to imitate the diplomatic card but quickly realized that they would only harm themselves and the cause.

Though the press had been blocked and locked out by the Thai Embassy in Nairobi from the whole trip of the Thai senators, the alerted press-men and women made their way into the meeting with the NGOs and there they did excellent reporting on national TV and for Reuters as well as in the print media. It therefore also was a victory for the free press in Kenya, which, however, still has to shed some light on those involved in handling the issue from the Kenyan governmental side, especially those KWS veterinarians, who approved the project in the first place and try in these days always to dominate over the rational thoughts of wildlife ecologists in Kenya:

Animals deal not finalised, say Thais

Story by NATION Reporter
Publication Date: 4/22/2005

The plan to export 300 wild animals to Thailand has yet to be finalised, a delegation from the country said yesterday.

The issue was still at the proposal level, and nothing had been agreed upon, the two Senators on a fact-finding mission said.

They said Kenyans' views would be taken into account before the deal was finalised.

Senators Mme Pensak and Wiboon Shamsheun met local NGOs at Holiday Inn, Nairobi, and pointed out that the decision to seek the importation was meant to improve relations between the two countries, and not to boost tourism in Thailand.

"We have no memorandum of understanding on this at all. This issue cannot be hurried up," Senator Pensak said. 

Last month, Kenya Wildlife Service director Julius Kipng'etich said the organisation had not received instructions to implement the decision. "We are an implementing agency of the Government, but we have not received the instructions," he said.

The plan to export the white rhinos, cheetahs, lions and other types – has been opposed by Kenyans. Questions have also been raised over whether the deal was a sale or a donation.

When the issue arose recently, the Thai government offered Kenya Sh79 million to set up a revolving conservation fund in exchange for the 300 animals.

The request was made when President Kibaki visited Thailand in October.

Yesterday, the NGOs said the deal was unfair and would tarnish Kenya's image. It would have no economic benefit and was cruel to the animals, they added.

He said Kenya has 28,000 elephants and 458 rhinos which need protection for future generations.

SOURCE

COMMENTARY

Don't sell our heritage for peanuts

Publication Date: 4/25/2005

In March of this year, India voted to ban the gifts of wildlife animals for diplomatic purposes, once again, in its ancient wisdom, setting a precedent for other countries to follow. 

Coca Cola has also been prevented from producing there because of its appalling environmental record and its unrepentant habit of polluting rivers.

There is still some sense left in the world, thanks to vigorous environmental watchdogs. Respect is due to those - individuals and societies - who stand up to moral principles and indicate to the world that not everything is for sale.

The furore that followed the announcement that Kenya was to "donate" 300 animals to Thailand in January seemed to die down after the Minister for Tourism and Wildlife said nothing had been finalised and the matter was still "under consideration".

Silence. But last week, a very high-level delegation from Thailand visited the country, so that it is clear that the issue is still very much alive. It was led by Senator Pensak Chagsuchinda and included Dr Wiboon Shamsheun, Vice-Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Environment. The media were not invited to the one and only meeting held to allow local NGOs to present their views, all of which were unanimous in their opposition. 

There was no Government representative present. At this stage, the whole thing is shrouded in secrecy, even though it is very much a public concern.

I wonder why the media have not rushed to investigate this latest, sinister chapter of a squalid story?

The issues at stake are many: moral, ethical, environmental, touristic and economic. To take them one by one: the moral question resides in the fact that no official has the right to give away anything. 

The wildlife resources of this country are held in trust by the Government of the day on behalf of the people who elected them to office. They can no more hand over 20 lions and 30 Lesser Flamingoes than they can trade a group of forest dwellers for some of Thailand’s indigenous peoples.

Ethics enters into it because it is, in fact, not a gift but a sale of species that are specifically banned from commercial deals of any sort by the International Convention on Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) to which Kenya is a signatory. 

Questions raised in Parliament a week ago have still not been satisfactorily answered. The official response remains: "Nothing has been finalised. We will look into it" which suggests that it may happen under cover. 

In a multiparty democracy, this is simply unacceptable. It is, in fact, a commercial transaction because the animals are destined for a Thai Night Safari Zoo in Prime Minister Thasin Shinawatra’s hometown of Chiang Mai in the north of the country. 

Thailand’s existing zoos are apparently very poorly run, so there is no evidence that this one will be any different and Thai ecological organisations have expressed their own hostility to the project. 

Activist Soraida Salwala, founder of the "Friends of the Asian Elephant" said: "I am fighting against my own government and I am pleading with other governments not to sign the export permits."

Like India, Thailand employs trainers called "mahouts" who traumatise the animals into submission, breaking their spirit. Kenya has, thankfully, no such evil practices, nor any tradition of cooping up animals in this way apart from the rather sad Snake Park at the National Museum. 

People are drawn here because of the magnificent wildlife which can so readily be seen in its own habitat and amongst its own kind. If animals are exported in this way, families are broken up, social bonds destroyed and ancient inborn knowledge lost. 

Elephants, for example, can tell by stamping their feet whether fellow members of their clan are in trouble miles away, and how far away any water sources are. 

When translocation is carried out by experts, it is done with the best interests of the animals in mind, after long and careful study. But this exercise has nothing whatsoever to do with the welfare of animals, nor is it being done for research purposes. 

The possibility of disease has not been considered, nor, I suspect have the needs of species like the Lesser Flamingo for the salt lakes of this region. 

The proposed Night Safari (which has already opened minus animals, much to the chagrin of the Prime Minister) intends to shut the animals up in cages during the day, and let them out at night under bright lights shining so that those who have paid can come and stare at them in their misery.

The very idea shows a total lack of understanding of "safaris" which enable visitors to watch animals interacting with one another in an environment they have become accustomed to over thousands of years, or to witness their movement to other pastures like the legendary annual migration of the wildebeest from the Maasai Mara to the Serengeti. 

Both zoos and circuses are things of the past and are being phased out everywhere else. The ostensible reason given for creating this theme park is that the majority of people in Thailand are far too poor to come and see Kenya’s wildlife for themselves, but I would guess that they are probably too poor to go to a night safari in Chiang Mai either, given the added distress caused in the country by last year’s devastating tsunami. 

And as a moneymaking venture, I bet it won’t be cheap. In return, Thailand has promised to establish a wildlife preservation centre in Kenya, and send out mahouts to drive the wild elephants away from human settlements where they periodically cause great damage. 

These cruel methods are not restricted to animals in Thailand but are also used against the indigenous peoples of the North like the Akha. From the point of view of tourism, the proposed deal would alienate the very customers we would wish to attract worldwide and tarnish Kenya’s valuable image. 

If they can gawp at them in their own country, why bother to travel to Kenya? Thailand has its own rich cultures and heritage which cannot be transported here either. The best thing would be for Kenya Airways (Best African Airline and The Pride of Africa) which now flies direct to Bangkok to lower its fares so that ordinary people can afford to travel back and forth. They could even make them so cheap that they would deter prospective competitors like Thai International Airlines from even thinking about it, thereby capitalising on tourism in both countries.

Ms Caplan is an author and freelance journalist

20.04.2005

Dr. Plodprasop Suraswadi is a very evil man

sent 20.04.2005

Dr. Plodprasop Suraswadi is a very evil man.

He is the one who went very hard on the Akha people with anti hill tribe policy.

Thais are whimps and only strong when many and in military uniform - then they can slaughter the innocent.They treat the Akha like animals.

He didn't care what was done to them, he sets policy and is a cruel and evil man.

How bizarre that he got his degree in Oregon. So the state of Oregon trained an anti indigenous terrorist.

This is really big because Oregon sees itself as so environmental, maybe even pro indigenous, there are lots of very active successful tribes there, and they will not be happy about this either.

But it illustrates something else, that maybe there are high end connections about oregon and sex trafficking or drugs to Thailand?


A.T.N.
Chianmai
Thailand

17.04.2005

THAI NIGHT SAFARI

Nonsense-Zoo Opening Stalled


- but wildlife defenders are still on high alert in Africa and Australia concerning any clandestine wildlife export to Thailand from Kenya, Tanzania, South-Africa or from some of the rogue states in the region

Chiang Mai / Cairns / Nairobi - 17. 04. 2005 - (WTN) - Royal Thai Prime Minister Thasin Shinawatra will have his Sunday dinner tonight elsewhere and not as planned at a dubious facility - termed NIGHT SAFARI - a zoo in his Northern Thailand's hometown of Chiang Mai, which he planned. The Prime Minister's highhanded scheme to build the Safari Night project, though fiercely opposed already in 2003 in a meeting attended by many Thai government bodies and environmental groups, was and is pushed by him and his aide Plodprasop Surasawadee with impunity.

Thaksin


PM Thaksin is not at ease over
flawed African wildlife deals

The reason for the angry Prime Minister to cancel the event is the fact that the zoo could not be opened on Wednesday (13 Apr. 05), because the wild animals he had ordered his officials to organize from East Africa and Australia are not there. While the Thai public didn't care at all that there were no animals and enjoyed the free access on that day to only the pond area of the entertainment park and the water-splashing , which goes along every year with the Songkran Festival - sporting the worlds largest water-fight as well as a gay and lesbian parade - only the few small animals, which were in that area before, had to witness what people in Chiang Mai like to have for fun.

ChiangMai130405


Water-fun-battles in Chiang Mai

Though Col. Boonrit Lert-wattana-ruangchai, commander of the Thai Army Engineers Department, who had built the facility, revealed that the basic structure of the Night Safari was almost 98 percent completed and also the cages were nearly ready, the Night Safari zoo-section remains closed. The frenzied building activity of the past months and the exorbitant extra expenditures of taxpayers' money to beat the deadline were absolutely unnecessary.

The Thai government was upbeat about the Night Safari from the outset. "It will be a magnet for foreign tourists, making the area the new eco-tourism site of the Asia-Pacific region," said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Prapat Panyachatraksa, who seem to not have understood what eco-tourism actually stands for, especially because the project has also come under fire for its projected use of 1.4 million cubic metres of water per year, which far exceeds the current supply in the area.

The planned zoo's project director Plodprasop Surasawadee [aka Suraswadi], who had been involved in numerous international wildlife and forest scandals already in the past, said the main problem now was to get hold of animals, particularly from Kenya, as many NGOs had protested over the issue. He told the Bankok Post that the African animals might have to be procured locally and the newspaper stated that a senior officer supervising the project and the wild animal procurement had said that fierce opposition from international wildlife protection groups had delayed the Kenyan and Australian governments' decisions to export the animals to Thailand.

An extraordinary large number of Thai, African, Australian and International nature defence groups, which had exposed the scam and stand firm against any transfer of wild African or Australian animals into the caged confinement at that entertainment facility, wonder how Plodrasop Suraswadi, who is also the adviser to the Thai Prime Minister, wants to achieve this within the four month he has been given until the new date for the opening.

According to Vichit Pattanakosai - Deputy Chief of the National Park, Plant and Wildlife Conservation Department - the zoo in the Mia Hia section of Chiang Mai's Muang District, where the animals shall be caged during the day and released for the visitors into the fenced  and brightly illuminated outer sections during the night, shall now open in August. The question, how Maj.Gen. Krasiri's plan to keep the animals in cages during daytime and let them out at night for visitors to observe, could work out for animals of those species with strict daylight activity, remains unanswered. 

While Vichit's department and the Thai Zoological Park Organization, which was forcibly relieved from its unsuccessful trials and the responsibility to purchase the animals, still confirm that they will supply more than 1,700 animals from their own resources into that relatively tiny area of the zoo, it was the international protest that made the import of 300 animals from now 30 species out of Kenya and 158 animals of 11 species from Australia to hit a snag and the planned opening impossible. Also Thai conservation organizations have vowed to ensure that this zoo will never open, since a zoo without animals cannot be opened, which is why they encouraged and urged the Australian and African Governments to not give in, but to keep their animals. From where the Jaguars for the Jaguar Trail have come, is not yet clear.

Though Thai officials, like Plodrasop, already expect animals from Australia to arrive any time now and insist that everything would be set - except for the Koalas, whose import would take three months - the Australian government too faces strong opposition from animal welfare groups about the elephant-koala swap, under which nine Thai Elephants are to be shipped to Taronga zoo in Australia in exchange for two Koalas. Other Thai officials, however, state already now that the import of the koalas - if at all - would at least take five months. The Thai elephants are at present quarantined and set to have another isolation term on one of the Cocos islands. Last year Thailand through its prime minister exported at least eight elephants to China, two of which died.

The weakest spot might still be in East Africa

While Thai officials have tried to compromise with the Kenyan government by excluding the initially promised white rhinos, lions and cheetahs from the import list, which are all species forbidden to trade under CITES (International Convention on Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora),  the tug-of-war behind the diplomatic curtains continues. Parliamentarians and citizens alike are angry in Kenya and believe Kenyan top government officials had been misled by their own civil servants of the wildlife authority - the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) - into promising species, whose trade is banned. The specific questions, which were raised in the Kenyan Parliament a week ago in connection with this scandal, have so far not conclusively been answered by the government. Still the governmental response in Kenya is: "Nothing has been finalized. We will look into it!", which increases the fear of wildlife protection organizations that the deal is not yet off, but shall clandestinely be pursued.

Though the Royal Thai Embassy in Nairobi first denied and then confirmed that in the coming week a high level delegation of Thai parliamentarians under the leadership of Senator Pensak Chagsuchinda [aka Pensak Howitz] is expected in Kenya, citizens and groups over there are worried that their cash-strapped coalition government will try by all means to give at least some animals to Thailand in order to be able to claim the promised assistance outlined in a memorandum involving the wildlife deal and Thai assistance to Kenya, which has not been made public in its full context.

Pensak Chagsuchinda (Howitz)


Thai Senator Pensak Chagsuchinda (Howitz)

Trafficking animals into zoos is seen as unethical in Kenya and in Thailand likewise. Soraida Salwala, founder of Friends of the Asian Elephant: "I am fighting against my own government and I am pleading with other governments not to sign the export permits."

With promises like "Kenya will become a big trading partner of Thailand!", as it was recently proclaimed by the former Thai Ambassador to Kenya, Charivat Santaputra and the present Thai Ambassador to Kenya, Akrasid Amatayakui, who is also the resident representative to UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) and should have know better that the initial deal would violate CITES, which is hosted by UNEP, try to push Kenya on behalf of the Thai Government into submission also concerning the wildlife deal. Thai mahouts (elephant trainers) shall be allowed to apply their often cruel training methods on orphaned elephant calves. This shall be serving as example that it is possible to force also the African elephant into submission like its Indian relative. Trained elephants then shall be used to drive wild elephants out of human settlements near the conservation areas in Kenya. Thailand also promised to establish a so called Wildlife Preservation Centre in Kenya, which will be taken care of by the Thai ambassador himself and would concentrate on developing ways to deter poachers. Human Rights organizations already fear that the Thais will teach their cruel methods, which are used regularly in Thailands North against indigenous peoples like the Akha.

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
L.T. AKRASID AMATAYAKUL

Concerned Kenyan citizens hope, however, that Senator Pensak, after visiting the famous Kenyan National Parks, will be able to convince her Prime Minister and the lackeys of the Chiang Mai Night Safari Zoo that African Wildlife is better left in their natural habitat in Kenya. If she sees for herself what visitors from Thailand could experience in terms of peacefully enjoying nature at it's best, she will understand why many experts e.g. from the Chiang Mai University as well as from Kenya and elsewhere state that an increase in sound tourism to Kenya as well as to Thailand will not be achieved by locking alien wild animals into zoo cages or by promoting crazy fun-tours, but by fostering and promoting the real values, which can only be found in the open nature in the respective countries and in the open hearts of their people.

Mr. Plodrasop, however, is also on record to have said in December 2004 that - besides from Kenya and Australia - "The rest of the animals will come from Tanzania and South Africa". Wildlife protection organizations therefore fear that if - as expected - Kenya finds its way back to a more rational and transparent handling of the situation and declines the export, Tanzania, who just recently has built a large holding ground for live animal exports near its international airport at Moshi, might get tempted by the money the Thais have on offer and which might come in handy before their presidential election set for October. Furthermore, all conservation groups are sure that the private wildlife breeders in South-Africa only wait for a chance to sell their stock to anybody who pays their price. Unscrupulous exports of wildlife from South-Africa e.g. into the United States even for canned hunting purposes are nothing new.

The wildlife defenders in many countries therefore unite at present and gear up for a major battle, about which even and not at least King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn, who herself is a ecosystem and biodiversity defender, will not be amused. Princess Sirindhorn is known to hold the conservation of the Thai heritage high - like the people of Kenya the protection of their wildlife heritage.


HRHMaha


Petitions were sent to HRH Princess Maha Chakri to safeguard the animals.

The best way to stop all this nonsense, many believe, would in any case be, if the Thai governance of the present constitutional system would stop the Night Safari plans for good, turn the cages into futuristic cyber-worlds to channel its mostly just fun-oriented foreign and local visitors and if Prime Minister Thasin Shinawatra would start to focus on the natural and cultural, real values of his rich country - a market segment in Thai's tourism industry would be promoted, which is crossly underdeveloped. Then he will be able to attract more foreign tourists as well as to give something to his people.

The development of the Night Safari has damaged the Doi Suthep Pui National Park - having stolen its land and destroyed a creek to build a dam and people in Thailand believe it would be best to try to undo some of this by having an indigenous plant and animal park including some free ranging elephants. The suggestion of sending elephants to Australia for breeding in exchange for koalas and kangaroos is seen by many Thais as preposterous.

Only if he opens himself to this kind of thought, the Prime Minister of Thailand would be able to enjoy in future his northern style Khan Tok dinner in Chiang Mai with pride and without having misused innocent animals to create "fun" for ignorant crowds. But it is very doubtful that he will listen, since he even treats humans inhumane, and it is even more unlikely that his subordinates will resist against his weird visions and orders.

Thaimuslimarrest

In Thailand, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, ordered a violent crackdown on Muslim Protestors in the Tak Bai district. Many young Muslim died and this seems to be a regular action taken by Thailand's Prime Minister.

The many thousand protest letters and petitions to all the countries and officials involved seem not to have stopped the conspiring parties to the wildlife deal, which is why already international boycott calls - targeting Thai tourism, travel and products - have been aired.

The Thai nobility and academia as well as its many conscious citizens have a last chance to put a halt to the ill-conceived Night Safari zoo-spleen before it even further damages the reputation of Thailand and the good relationship with other countries and their people, who have no respect for such unethical ventures and their masterminds.

At the old Chiang Mai Zoo, adjoining the new safari park, already two pandas suffer, named Thewan and Thewi, which are on loan from the Wu Long Panda Conservation and Research Center in the People’s Republic of China. The pandas are said to have been brought to Chiang Mai on 12 October 2003 in order to strengthen the long-standing relationship between China and Thailand. Do these people not understand that such pathetic deeds are outdated world-wide? Well, the people in Kenya do.


Read more on the background of this saga:

No more Slave-trade and Prostitution of African Wildlife

WTN 17 Apr 2005 07:31 GMT

Kenyan and Australian Governments taken for a ride by unscrupulous Thai officials Wildlife trade is business as usual for the taker societies on this planet. Trafficking of wildlife and girls into and from Thailand is still rampant

- please distribute widely - and act! 

Kenyan and Australian Governments taken for a ride by unscrupulous Thai officials Wildlife trade is business as usual for the taker societies on this planet. Trafficking of wildlife and girls into Thailand still is rampant WTN - Canberra / Nairobi / Bangkok - 09 March 2005 Of the over two million citations the internet holds for the northern Thailand city of Chian Mai nearly 100.000 contain the word sex and more than 50.000 hits describe or decry the horrible situation concerning prostitution, especially child prostitution and pornography. Children, often stolen from the traditionally living hill tribes (see: http://www.akha.org ) or bought from other impoverished communities, are as innocent as the many hundreds of non-human creatures, which Thailand wants now to capture from the wild in Africa and Australia - not for the welfare of these animals, but for an exhibitionistic venture, which the city of Chiang Mai wants to present to its kick-hungry citizens and rich visitors in a perverse Night-Safari termed zoo and entertainment facility. Sex and drugs seem to be not enough any more to animate the folks.

Not only is Thailand now opening its prison doors to paying watchers, who get exited by seeing the inmates fight in kick-boxing, but - following a sick example from Singapore - they want the paying spectators to get lured into a pseudo-zoo by presenting “the wild beasts from Africa” during a Night-Safari, whereby it can not be ruled out that also the producers of sex-with-animals pornographic websites, which often have their origin in Thailand, are part to the scam. Powerful investment circles in Thailand tried since 2002 to purchase enough wildlife for this Chiang Mai zoo project in order to have least 55 different species from Africa and Asia to show off. The usual buying failed and the project faced from its onset strong opposition from local residents and environmental groups around the globe likewise.

AT THE CORE

But, "the show must go on", seems to be the policy at Chiang Mai, for its godfather, the Prime Minister, its public officers and its business managers. As chairman of the national committee overseeing that zoo project, and insisting that the project would go ahead by all means, one man is at the core of it all: Dr. Plodprasop Suraswadi (alias Suraswadee). Being a rare mixture between a cat with many lives and a chameleon, in terms of his professional career and his connections respectively, which range from Her Majesty the Queen of Thailand, via Thai government officials through often smoke-screen-providing IUCN and WWF contacts to those, who like to be his partners in every shady deal, as long as it brings money, Suraswadi is known and sometimes feared for his stubbornness once he has set himself a task.

Plodprasop Suraswadi

Plodprasop Suraswadi as adviser and business man of today and during his he-days (on the left) in the forest office.

Plod in action

A 1979 graduate of Oregon State University and equipped with a PhD from the University of Alberta, Plodprasop started off his governmental work with the Thai Department of Fisheries, where he learned that exploitation of nature can provide officials of ministries with big bucks. He was moved through Agriculture, where he implemented land reforms for the sake of the rich, to Forestry, where he had his biggest problems so far and from where he was more or less dismissed. He then fell up the ladder to become the Permanent Secretary of the Thai Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, where he was entrapped in the largest tiger trading scandal of the last 100 years. 

An intervention from above, however, ensured again that he was not dropped. It was finally arranged that Suraswadi became the Adviser to Deputy PM Suwat Liptapanlop, from where he now can mastermind all his former ministerial dockets and, having always a good nose for big-time money, he became also the Tsunami response coordinator as soon the wave and the global rescue-funds had hit his country. Though he still is haunted by all his affairs, including a scandal where he "helped" the Royal Chiang Mai Country Club to encroach with a golf course on a forest reserve set aside for recreational purpose of all citizens, he still is seen as jack of all trades concerning any deals with the Thai government. But this does not necessarily make him credible.

THE TRADE

The CITES convention in 2004 in Bangkok offered him the opportunity to discuss with all those impoverished countries from Africa a special deal to fill up the Night-Safari establishment in Chiang Mai with the necessary wild species. But not only governmental emissaries from South-Africa, Tanzania and Kenya listened to his stringers, also Australian officials fell for the offered opportunities. Ministers and Permanent Secretaries alike, who were present at that time in Bangkok, quickly did their homework and it is reported that when Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki himself visited Thailand in October, he received the official request from Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra for a donation of 300 wild animals - among them white Rhinos, Cheetahs and Lions as well as Leopards, Serval cats, silver-backed Jackals, spotted Hyenas, Hippos, reticulated Giraffes, Topis, Eland and Impala Antelopes, Waterbucks Grant's and Thomson's gazelles, Wildebeests, Dik-Diks, Gerenuks, Kudus, Zebras, Buffaloes and Warthogs- to be imprisoned in the tiny 17 hectare Night Safari area in Chiang Mai, which shall have a targeted animal population of over 2000 animals from Australia, the Americas, South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya, held in confinement. Several of these species are endangered and under special protection.

The recent report, which states that Kenya would consult neighbouring countries before donating these 300 wild animals, which also include migratory bird species like Lesser Flamingoes, Yellow-billed Storcks and Crested Cranes to Thailand could also mean that one just doesn’t want to step on each others feet in the bid for the bucks. Suraswadi himself is under pressure, because that entertainment facility in Chiang Mai is a multi-million dollar venture and due to open in April. This pressure he now extends on officials, who he knows can hardly resist his monetary and other advantages he has to offers.

A tragic figure, as he might see himself, Plodprasop Suraswadi is, however, not just the character of the Good Man of the House, who is always misunderstood, but rather seems to be the example of a man who is party to that power that always might pretend or even want to create the Good, but knowingly is party to that power that always wills and creates the Evil. He thereby just must be seen as and remains a Mephistophelian character with reversed premises and an enigma in a turned coat full of false promises.

THE PROTEST

While conservation groups, saying Kenya could not afford to give away it’s diminishing stocks of wildlife, already stepped up their complaints to the Kenya government to abandon any plans concerning the export of these 300 wild animals to Thailand, also in Australia fierce opposition is rising to the scheme, under which Thailand is to send eight female elephants and one male to Sydney's Taronga zoo, the Melbourne zoo as well as to Wellington zoo in New Zealand in exchange for at least two koalas from Australia to Chiang Mai. In both hemispheres, however, the opinions are split along the classic lines of those who believe wildlife must pay for its existence and thereby degrade wild creatures to mere commodities and those who actually want to 100% conserve wildlife, but who do not realize that they are doing it by filling untouched nature into smaller and smaller cans, which can not hold it for the future. This classic divide is so typical only for the anglo-american world, which seems to have fully conquered now not only Australia, but also Thailand and Kenya in opposition to the traditional regimes, which prevailed in these countries in pre-colonial times and which were much more successful in protecting nature on a larger scale and in longer terms. In both potential supply-countries, however, fierce opponents are sure that the masterminded deals will lead to the maltreatment of the animals in Thailand, where also a human life is worth sometimes not even a few coins and which has not only a disastrous human rights record, but also is infamous for its cruelty to animals. In Kenya therefore the work to built holding pens inside Nairobi National Park, which is near the countries largest airport, were quickly abandoned after it had transpired that even physical interventions and resistance by angered citizens had to be expected.

THE SCAM

The saga in Kenya has an even wider dimension: The official report compiled by a delegation of senior wildlife officials from the Kenya Wildlife Service, who were sent again on a rather pleasant trip to Thailand to inspect that zoo facility - is kept under lock and seal, which is certainly not adding to the government’s credibility in terms of transparency. It only was published that the delegation found the zoo "appropriate" after its members had been hosted very nicely by the Thai operators, though the leader of that delegation, a veterinarian, later admitted that the study needed to be amended. So far it is not clear if that has been done and if the open questions, which even the minister still had, have been answered or if the KWS delegation wants to get yet another trip to happy Chiang Mai out of it.

The fact that the whole case is kept more or less secret angers not only the Kenyan group Youth for Conservation, which collected already more than 12,000 signatures from Kenyans in addition to the many thousand international voices against any transfer of Kenyan wildlife to Thailand, but also many politicians of the opposition as well as from the governing coalition itself, who criticize that the government would do nothing against the rampant corruption, which has obviously also grabbed the wildlife sector on a wider scale, as the recent sacking of the KWS director John Mukuriah shows, the man in charge for the protection of the wildlife of Kenya at the time the deal with Thailand was designed during the CITES conference.

Unfortunately, the new KWS director Mr. Julius Kipng'etich has not made any public comment on the plan, which seems to not just simply go away. Maybe too much has been paid by the Thais already. What is worst is the fact that the story concerning the conditions of the deal said to have been agreed between the two countries Kenya and Thailand has been now twisted for the third time in terms of its official reasoning. First it was only a donation for which Kenya was said to gain tourism advantages, i.e. people from Thailand would come to Kenya to see them in the wild. After the whole world laughed about that silly explanation, the argument was quickly turned into a ministerial statement claiming that an exchange in terms of research co-operation would benefit both countries, while Thailand would send tigers and elephant-trainers (mahouts) and some veterinarians to Kenya. Tigers from zoos in Thailand, which just recently have been hit by Avian flu resulting in the death of around 100 tigers, and Mahouts, who are infamous for beating elephants into submission, are alien and of no help to Kenya at all. Neither are the Thai veterinarians of any benefit for Kenya, but rather a burden, except if their foreign paid alimentation fund would find its way into local pockets.

CHIEFS TO CHIEFS and MONEY TO MONEY

Though it is actually believed by many that President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya and the Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra might have just agreed on the deal last October in the typical jovial mood of sovereigns, which are used to determine the fate of their subjects, it was now revealed that at least on the ministerial level the talk is in fact involving a deal which calls for the payment of one million US Dollar into a mutual revolving fund for wildlife. That fund as such is either new or has not even been established. In addition the Thai Government explains and sees the agreed fund in a different light than Kenya and declared that one had agreed on the setting of funds for human resource training programs and the investment aids to Thai investors who want to start a business in Kenya in exchange for the wildlife - and not as it is presented now in Kenya as a "revolving wildlife mutual fund", whatever that might be. The then acting Kenyan Minister for Wildlife and Tourism was Raphael Tuju, who himself received in December 2004 Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Suwat Liptapanlop in Kenya to seal – besides others arrangements – especially this deal - despite the categorical statement by him as Kenyan minister that Kenya would maintain its policy to not sell wildlife. It must be noted here that during the same time, while this minister was overseeing Kenya’s wildlife affairs, another deal was announced, whereby between 20 and 30 rhinos shall now be translocated from Kenya to the "rhino-less" Grumeti Game Reserve in Tanzania, a scheme initiated and financed by a US citizen, who manages hedge funds and is a Wall Street trader. How much money is flowing in this deal, which would certainly benefit at least the investors’ public relations and seven-star lodge, is not clear yet. Hon. Morris Donzo, the successor of Hon. Raphael Tuju, who himself was reshuffled last month as Wildlife Minister, has, however, remained absolutely mum on all these issues. From where all these animals shall be captured, to where they shall brought for their preparation to their future fate, if private ranches and ventures in Kenya are involved or what the true nature of the deal is are all questions which have not been answered.

THE FORCES AND COUNTER-FORCES 

The serious arguments of over 20 international and national wildlife protection organizations, who oppose any such deal and are especially deeply concerned about how and where these animals are to be sourced and the life that might await them should the Thai proposals become sad reality, were only responded to by the master of the deal, top government adviser Plodprasop Suraswadi, by saying: "It’s absolute nonsense!" Suraswadi is angry, because as project coordinator for the zoo in Chiang Mai he has to secure and satisfy the massive investments of around 52 million US Dollars into this venture by his political and business friends. "Nonsense", the animal protection organizations reply, "is only the fact that Thailand’s Prime Minister, the billionaire tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra, who initiated the project to attract tourists to his hometown of Chiang Mai, seems to not be willing to give up his brainchild and to stubbornly insist on wildlife from Africa". For getting these animals his adviser Suraswadi has to jump and likewise all others. Thailands Interim Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suvit Khunkitti last week moved to speed up the export of the elephants to Australia and ordered his officials to complete the Koala shelter at the Night-Safari-Zoo by April as instructed by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. But it appears that Suraswadi, who bluntly guarantees the 100% safety of these animals, not only has forgotten his own failures during his ministerial times, but that he and his masters also are not honestly taking into consideration the general attitude the majority of the Thai population has towards animals or nature. Other zoo facilities in Thailand show this starkly and in 2002 the country only narrowly slipped past a total international ban of any of its wildlife trades due to proven violations against CITES, the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora. But by that time Thailand was already set to host the 2004 conference of the parties of CITES and for a fine meal and a good massage one can close the eyes and ears, it seems.

The fact remains that this South-east Asian nation is still one of the world's leading trafficking routes for animal smugglers, with several privately owned zoos accused of illegally obtaining orang-utans and other rare species and for decades, Thailand's heritage of teak forests and richly varied wildlife has fallen prey to the plunder of grasping politicians, military officers and ruthless entrepreneurs, largely ignored, tolerated or even fostered by government. Thailand has for years served as a major conduit for a trade, which conservationists estimate is worth billions of dollars a year - surpassed in value only by the trade in drugs and arms. The initiated crackdown on this illegal trade has apparently not lasted for long. The business with wild species is enhanced by the increasing demand of mainly Chinese and Koreans, who join tours to Thailand where middlemen guide them to secret restaurants to eat freshly prepared meals of rare and often endangered wildlife species, like tigers, bears, apes or monkeys. All is well as long it is well paid for. Conservationists, which were hoping that Thailand's crackdown, which began just before the latest CITES conference, was a start to curb the trade, state that this was a short-lived exercise and a mere public relations spin, while today the illegal, but highly profitable trade in wild species is in Thailand worst than ever before.

OUTLOOK

It is high time that in Kenya as well as in Australia the people and their parliaments not only ask the burning questions, but also get answers from their governments and that such shady and pseudo-feudal deals become an issue of the past. Humanity has overcome human slavery and it must overcome the slavery of other creatures. Any such mass-shipment of wild animals from the wild into a zoo confinement in Thailand would certainly undermine Kenya's credibility as a positive global force for animal welfare and protection. And let us finally not forget how many honest game rangers have lost their lives in combat with unscrupulous wildlife killers and traders. Have brave men and women defended the wildlife only for a shady governmental deals, which sell them into slavery in Thailand to satisfy voyeurists ? 

Sources:

Own correspondents from Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Nairobi, Adelaide and Dar es Salam, with additional reporting from Thailand, Kenya, Australia and Tanzania. Various publications and press statements.

17.04.05

Chiangmai Night Zoo - Thaksin Shinawatra can't find the monkeys!

Posted by akha on Sunday, April 17 @ 22:48:21 EDT

http://www.akha.org/article303.html 



Thaksin Shinawatra, talking heads for the Thai government, used to exploiting the Akha and just about everything else for tourism, is in a real bind. He can't find animals for his monkey show!

Plodprasop Surasawadee got him into this mess!

24.02.2005

PRESS STATEMENT

24. 02. 2005

COCERNED CITIZENS IMPLORE KENYA GOVERNMENT

TO KEEP WILDLIFE IN THE WILD

THAI ZOO DEAL SHOULD BE REJECTED

Youth for Conservation, local and international organizations, thousands of concerned citizens around the world and over 9,500 Kenyans who have contacted YfC are strongly opposed to the government’s intention to export 300 of Kenya ’s free-ranging wild animals to Chiang Mai Night Safari zoo in Thailand .  As Kenyans we believe Kenya ’s wildlife should remain in Kenya for the benefit of all Kenyans.  They are part of our magnificent national heritage. Outlined below are the reasons behind our concerns:

  • The animals involved include recognised species such as the White Rhino and Cheetah.

  • Other species include Lions, Leopards, Spotted hyenas, Serval cats, Silver backed jackals, Maasai giraffe, Topis, Elands, Waterbucks, Impalas, Grant’s gazelles, Thompson’s gazelles, Wildebeests, Dikdiks, Gerenuks, Kudus, Common Zebra, Buffaloes, Hippos, Reticulated Giraffes, Warthogs.  Many of these species are already under pressure, particularly from the bushmeat trade. Bird species include Lesser flamingos, Yellow billed storks, Marabou storks, Black breasted Kori bustard and Crested cranes.

  • Kenya ’s wildlife population declined by 40-60% between 1977 and 1994 (Agatsiva 2004).  This decline is estimated to be, in all probability, even higher now due to the rampant illegal bush meat trade, excision of forests, and widespread encroachment into parks and reserves for human settlement.

  • Kenya ’s wild animals have adapted to our local environment over centuries.  There are very real dangers in taking them to an alien environment where they will be susceptible to potentially fatal diseases.  (Zoo tigers in Thailand have recently been hit by Avian Flu resulting in the death of around 100 animals.)

  • The exercise of capturing animals, caging them, and transporting them over long distances is a procedure that should only be undertaken when absolutely necessary.  The relocation of problem elephants, the restocking of protected areas such as Meru National Park , or the translocation of the endangered Rothschild Giraffe are all essential wildlife management procedures, expertly undertaken by the KWS.  The capture of animals for overseas zoos, which may result in excessive stress on the animals and lead to widespread mortality is neither essential nor necessary.

  • Kenya has achieved international respect for its conservation policies that have directly led to an increase in wildlife tourism.  This move threatens to negate Kenya ’s unique position and could lead to a damaging decline in tourist numbers.

  • We understand that mahouts from Thailand may also come to Kenya to ‘train’ elephants.  According to evidence that we have seen, such training of elephants frequently involves cruelty and the beating of animals into submission.  Kenya should want any part of such a process.

  • Kenya has always guarded against the exportation of its biodiversity. By exporting these 300 animals, Kenya will be enhancing biopiracy which it has always stood against and will be setting a dangerous precedent for the future.

  • Kenya has always endeavoured to alleviate human poverty and conserve wild animals.  Wildlife, through ecotourism, has the potential to create employment especially for well-organised local communities.  With the streamlining of policy and legislation, more and more Kenyans stand to benefit from the non-consumptive, benign appreciation of wildlife, a benefit they will be denied if these animals are exported.

  • As Kenyans we need to promote tourism at home as opposed to encouraging growth of tourism elsewhere.  We should encourage tourists to come and experience the hospitality that Kenya ’s has to offer, the majesty of our diverse environments and the beauty of our wildlife for themselves - not take Kenya ’s wildlife to another country.

W arhave receiving thousands of petitions from Kenyans and the international community who are totally opposed to this export. We therefore appeal to the Government to urgently consider this matter and withdraw the decision.

Local and International Organisations:

  1. ECOTERRA Intl. & Kenya

  2. The Kenya Human Wildlife Conflict Management Network.

  3. Kitengela Landowners Association

  4. Kipeto Landowners Association

  5. David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

  6. Eastern Africa Environmental Network

  7. The Kenya Wildlife Coalition

  8. Youth Center for Biodiversity Conservation

  9. Pastoralists Information Bureau

  10. African Environmental Outlook for Youth.

  11. Amboseli Tsavo Conflict Resolution Committee

  12. The Born Free Foundation UK

  13. Humane Society of United States

  14. International Fund for Animal Welfare

  15. The Winsome Constance Kindness Trust

  16. Green Alive

  17. Humane Society International

  18. Community Led Animal Welfare (CLAW)

  19. Pegasus Foundation

  20. Born Free USA

  21. Youth for Conservation

Update: 09.05.2004

Thai Zoo 'lacks papers', faces legal action

Bangkok Post, 09 May 2004, Wassayos Ngamkham

Forestry police will take legal action against executives of Sri Racha Tiger Zoo in Chon Buri for keeping tigers for breeding purposes without permission. Pol Maj-Gen Sawek Pinsinchai, forestry police commander, said zoo chiefs would be summoned to hear the charge within a week.

He said the company was found to have held tigers for breeding without permission and had no papers to confirm the origin of 218 tigers in its possession. This was in violation of the Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act of 1992.

Pol Maj-Gen Sawek said the legal action was separate from another case involving Plodprasop Suraswadi, former Forestry Department chief and current permanent secretary of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry.

In that case, a fact-finding panel found that Mr Plodprasop and senior Forestry Department officials had abused their authority by allowing Sri Racha Tiger Zoo to export 100 tigers to a zoo in Sanya municipality in China.

That case is being handled by the Forestry Department and the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry.

26.04.2004

The bloody hand of the Thai Government machinery:
Monetary interests bulldoze human and animal life!


Another case of shooting the messenger

Published on Apr 26, 2004

The skirmishes between the Thai government and human-rights organisations are escalating into a full-blown war. This is silly, and too many people are getting hurt.

Hina Jilani's job at the UN is to monitor the safety and freedom of people around the world who work on behalf of human rights. She compiles an annual global report about them as well as occasional special reports on individual countries.

She came to Thailand for eight days in May 2003, in the aftermath of the first, bloody phase of the government's war on drugs. She has now presented her report.

She thanks the government for making her visit possible. She notes that she had very free access. She praises ways in which this government has targeted poverty. But there the diplomatic politeness runs out. Thailand used to be a beacon for human- rights work in the region. Its own importance was magnified because the situation in neighbouring countries was so much worse. For the Burmese in particular, Thailand's freedoms were vital. Hence the fact that Thailand is "no longer as comfortable a location for human-rights defenders and their organisations" is doubly unfortunate. Jilani says she is concerned that the current government has declared war on the NGO movement. In the past, the vitality of Thailand's NGOs contributed much to Thailand's good image in the world.

But now the government tries to undermine their legitimacy by denigrating them publicly. It tries to block funding from abroad. It applies harassment through rules and regulations. She concludes: "Some officials perceive the function of serving the people as exclusive to the government." They think NGOs just get in the way. As Jilani summarises: "There is limited acceptance among some authorities of the concept of peaceful dissent."

This is bad in itself. It also sends a clear message to people with bad intentions. The result is evident from the cases listed in the report.

Boonyong Intawong, a community leader protesting against the negative health and environmental impacts of a rock quarry in Chiang Rai, was killed in December 2002. Boonsom Nimnoi, a community leader opposing a Phetchaburi plantation, was killed in September 2002. Suwat Wongpiasathit, an activist protesting a landfill in Samut Prakan, was shot dead in March 2001, a day before he was due to speak to a Senate committee on the environment.

Jurin Rachaphol, a Phuket campaigner against the destruction of mangrove swamps, was killed in January 2002. Pitak Tonewuth, a Ramkhamhaeng University environmental activist, was killed in May 2001. Sompol Chanapol, another leader of a local conservation group, was killed in July 2001. Luechai Yarangsi, president of an environmental group in Lampang, was shot but survived.

Preecha Thongphan, a community leader opposing a water- treatment project in Nakhon Si Thammarat, was killed in September 2002. Jintana Kaewkao, opponent of the power projects in Prachuap Khiri Khan, was shot in her home in January 2002. On the following day her colleague, Yuthana Khaemakriangkrai, was also shot.

This litany of cases is so striking because the pattern is the same: an activist opposing some attempt to wreck the local environment is killed. These incidents come from all over the country. This handful of cases includes just those which Jilani managed to document during a short eight-day visit. Jilani was told that police had made arrests in some of these cases but had not been able to bring a single suspect to trial. She draws the quiet conclusion that this must be because of "collusion between local authorities and commercially powerful actors from the private sector". Translated from reportspeak: big people shoot little people who get in their way.

Another very vulnerable group includes leaders or supporters of hill communities. Jilani steers clear of the drug war, claiming that extrajudicial killings are not part of her work. She does, however, note that hill-community leaders who had been critical of police work in the past tended to find their way onto the blacklists of drug suspects.

A group of community forest activists who set up roadblocks to exclude loggers from a forest were attacked and shot at by an armed band. A leader of the Northern Peasants Federation was shot and injured in Lamphun.

Sadly, the government has reacted to this report rather negatively. It has tried to suggest that the report was prematurely leaked (versions have been officially available on Internet for some time). The foreign minister has made some huffy comments. The Thai representative to the UN officially responded to the report by rebuking Jilani as an ungrateful guest and accusing her of not knowing how to write a report. He says: "We obviously cannot accept generalised comments and the inclusion of unsubstantiated information." He complains that Jilani's visit has not turned out to be a "learning experience", implying that she is at fault.

Whisper "human rights" now, and the government goes into full counter-strike mode. This is sad. The root problem is obviously the drug war. Jilani skips past this but does note "the intense sensitivity of the government on this issue".

By refusing to engage in any sensible discussion of what happened during the drug war, the government digs itself deeper and deeper into a hole. The more antagonistic the government becomes to human rights and their defenders, the more it encourages those who regularly violate human rights for fun, power or profit.

The fact that the ministerial team at the forefront of the drug war (Chavalit, Thammarak) has been pulled off the case in the South is very significant. Thaksin knows what forces are at work. The costs of allowing them free rein in the South have become too high.

But breaking down the broader antagonism between this government and the human-rights community will be much more difficult. This government has identified itself too closely with some of the bad old authoritarian ways. And that means people at the grass-roots level will continue to get shot for defending the environment, their communities and their ways of life.

Chang Noi

© Nation Multimedia Group

07.04.2004

Lack of animals to delay opening of new zoo

Bangkok Post  07. April 2004

The planned opening of Chiang Mai Night Safari zoo has hit a snag _ many of the park's animals have not yet arrived. The 600-rai zoo, in tambon Mae Hia in Chiang Mai's Muang district, was scheduled to open on April 13. Army Engineers Department deputy chief Maj-Gen Kraisiri Buranasiri said it would probably be delayed. ''The infrastructure buildings and landscaping was finished in February but it's unlikely to open on time because we don't have all the animals, especially those from African countries,'' he said.

Park plans call for about 200 different animals, including kangaroos and wallabies from Australia and lions, rhinoceroses and elephants from East Africa. Zoo management has had problems acquiring animals, particularly those from Africa. Several NGOs have protested against housing the animals in a safari park because they will live in limited space. Maj-Gen Kraisiri said the the plan was to keep the animals in cages during daytime and let them out at night for visitors to observe.

Negotiations to get animals were continuing and results were expected in one or two months. Of the 1.1 billion baht budgeted for the park, 600 million baht was spent on construction and the rest for landscaping and animal procurement. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will visit the park on April 17 and have a northern-style Khan Tok dinner there.

08.06.2002

Thailand: The racism behind the modern conservation paradigm

Article extracted from "Power and prejudice in forest conservation", a book review by Noel Rajesh, Foundation for Ecological Recovery, Bangkok Post, 8 June 2002 - SOURCE

The upland forests of north Thailand have become an arena for intensely contested perspectives on forest protection as state forestry officials and some nature conservation groups attempt, in the name of forest conservation, to remove local communities, particularly hilltribe people living in and using these forest areas, with the argument that upland forests act as watersheds for lowland rivers and must therefore be kept free of human interaction.

"Redefining Nature: Karen Ecological Knowledge and the Challenge to the Modern Conservation Paradigm" explores the conservationist ideology and the themes surrounding it: the racial and anti-rural character of nature conservation imposed by the state, the power and politics involved in defining what counts as knowledge of nature conservation, and the struggle of the Karen ethnic people to protect their homes and fields as they engage and resist the politically powerful: the state foresters, policy-makers and nature conservationists.

Author Pinkaew Laungaramsri, an anthropologist at Chiang Mai University, begins the book with the tragic story of the suicide in March 1997 of a Karen elder, Pati Punu Dokjimu (to whom the book is dedicated), from Huai Hoi village in Chiang Mai province, after his home and swidden rice fields were taken over by the state in the name of nature conservation, threats of arrest and resettlement became a daily nightmare, and finally saw his hopes of dialogue with the phu yai - the powerful state authorities - destroyed. As Pinkaew movingly describes it, in a world in which freedom of choice is not granted to powerless hill people, Pati Punu had chosen the only path he had in his struggle for autonomy; the path that took away his life, but allowed him to remain Karen in soul and spirit.

"Redefining Nature" unravells the complex processes of power relations by which the modern concept of nature conservation - voiced by foresters and nature conservationists representing the desire for the modernisation of the country - has historically come into being in Thailand, and searches for radical questions rather than tacit answers, and hidden falsehoods rather than unquestioned truth.

The author describes a major stumbling block preventing foresters from considering the idea of co-management of forests with local people: "An obstacle which, I came to realise later on, was a racial prejudice against ethnic-minority hill people. This prejudice [among foresters] is so strong, definite, and decisive that it obviated the necessity of further truth finding about forest problems. In fact, what is repeatedly portrayed by the international conservationist idea of human/nature division is a human/human boundary which tends to reinforce or conceal class, ethnic, anti-agricultural, anti-commons or other discrimination in the allocation and permitted uses of land.''

But this hegemonic representation of poor ethnic minorities, however, is never constructed without contestation. Pinkaew weaves an absorbing narrative about the Karen people of Mae Ning Nai village and takes us to their swidden rice fields, forests and their homes, and relates their stories of the struggles to protect their livelihoods.

The book compels us to look afresh and questions the power, ideology and prejudices behind the politics of nature conservation, if for nothing else because, by the end of the book, we realise that the survival of hundreds of communities dwelling in forest areas not just in Thailand but elsewhere in the Mekong Region is being threatened by it.

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