Unethical and Illegal Wildlife Treatment in Thailand

Thailand is known around the world for its beautiful and diverse wildlife. Unfortunately, this creates an opening for exploitation of the animals. Poachers routinely traffic and kill animals for their valuable body parts to be sold in forgin markets. Wildlife sanctuaries often exploit and mistreat their animals for the sake of tourism. Considering the importance of Thailand as a U.S. ally, the U.S government should fund Non Government Agencies to help end these problems. In Thailand, the unethical and often illegal treatment of wildlife can be helped by the funding of the Elephant Nature Park and the Wildlife Friends Foundation.

Elephant sanctuaries, while having the appearance of helping animals, often mistreat the elephants to make the tourism experience more exciting. Since 1989, Thailand has suspended commercial logging. Elephants were being used as work animals in the logging industry. With the suspension of logging, half of the 7,000 total elephants in Thailand were left unemployed and were moved to the tourism industry. Unfortunately, many of these tourist attractions are abusive. They often do not provide enough food, water, or shade to humanely sustain life. In fact, in a two year study by World Animal Protection (WAP) found that 77% of elephants in Thailand were inadequately cared for. In addition, to make elephants safe for human interaction they must be trained. From a young age, many elephants are chained up by their feet and beaten with sharp objects to ensure obedience later in life. A sign of this unethical treatment is when elephant bathing or elephant riding is offered, as it would be dangerous for an untrained elephant to participate in such activities. Fortunately, there are organisations such as the Elephant Nature Park trying to help the conditions and practices of these sanctuaries. The Elephant Nature Park is on the forefront of ethical tourism. The park is considered a “retirement home” for rescued elephants and many other species. Goals include conservation of endangered species, rainforest restoration, cultural preservation, and education. The Elephant Nature Park is a wise NGO to invest in because of its valuable conservation efforts and the impact on tourism. Ethical tourism is an up and coming industry, and Thailand will benefit from having more elephant friendly sanctuaries. This is valuable to the United States because the growth of our ally Thailand is largely connected to stability and peace in the region. While there are still many unethical sanctuaries in Thailand, funding the Elephant Nature Park will help promote ethical treatment of elephants and may promote a new industry, which would benefit the Thai economy. 

Poachers and animal traffickers are illegally killing and transporting exotic animals to be sold for profit in forgin countries. Recently, the fate of nearly 150 tigers rescued from a Thai temple made headlines. In 2016, 147 tigers were rescued from Thailand’s “Tiger Temple” in Kanchanaburi Province, west of Bangkok. While investigating the temple for reports of safety hazards, the police found 40 tiger cubs’ remains in a freezer, ready to be sold. This led to all the tigers being confiscated. Recently, these tigers have been dying due to weak immune systems. It was discovered the temple was illegally breeding the tigers and therefore they were inbred. This created weak immune systems, and unfortunately 86 of the 150 tigers have died. These types of situations are not uncommon. While atrocities like this are being committed, there is little law enforcement protecting the wildlife. Many wealthy or powerful men who are found to have been trafficking animals walk away free because of their status. This creates a low-risk, high-financial reward for poaching in Thailand. When wildlife is rescued, the increased need for animal housing burdens sanctuaries. Confiscated animals must be kept for either five years or until the case had been decided according to Thai law. This creates an overwhelming amount of animals needing care and space to live. An NGO trying to fix this problem is the Wildlife Friends Foundation or WFFT. It’s mission is to rescue captive wild animals, campaign against animal abuse and exploitation, educate locals and volunteers, and more. WFFT is considered a leader in rehabilitation and ethical treatment of animals. The U.S. should fund WFFT to help reduce the exploitation of wildlife and promote their rehabilitation efforts. In Thailand, the unethical and often illegal treatment of wildlife such as tigers and elephants can be helped by the funding of the Elephant Nature Park and the Wildlife Friends Foundation.

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