Loopholes in law threaten conservation of Thailand’s wild elephants
A recently released study by TRAFFIC South East Asia has revealed a
serious threat to Thailand’s declining elephant population due to loopholes
in and manipulation of the country’s laws regarding the registration and
transportation of elephants.
For centuries, elephants have played a significant part in the traditions
and culture of Thailand, whilst being essential for transportation both of
people and goods and, more recently, in the logging industry until the
logging ban came into force in 1989. Since then, .this much-loved and highly
respected symbol of the kingdom has faced threats from commercial and other
interests ranging from forest clearance, rampant human population growth,
escalating poaching for ivory, illegal capture, poisoning from eating
contaminated food, injuries from land mines in border areas, road accidents
and illness and injury caused by being forced to beg with their mahouts in
Thailand’s cities. Combined with breeding difficulties, both in the wild and
in captivity, these threats have resulted in a huge decline in the number of
elephants in Thailand in spite of the ongoing efforts of breeding centres
and animal welfare foundations.
Domesticated elephants in Thailand are classified, at best, as livestock,
(some reports state ‘vehicles’ as the classification) making it legal to
buy, sell, transport and trade in the animals. Documentation is easy to
forge, allowing illegally wild-caught elephants to be classified as
captive-bred, losing them the protection of laws only applied to the
diminishing and protected wild population. These laws forbid the killing or
capture of wild elephants, or any trade in the beasts themselves or their
products. Little effort has been made by the authorities to deal with this
issue. Elephants bred in captivity are allowed to be exported for use in
circuses and zoos, wild elephants are not.
After the logging ban, a large number of the redundant elephants were deemed
too old to be retrained for the tourism industry, circuses or for export,
although the demand still existed both nationally and internationally. This
set the stage for widespread evasion of existing laws on the capture of wild
elephants, with reports of the seizure even of infant elephants, snatched
away from their mothers and exported to zoos and circuses in first-world
countries. These calves are virtually unidentifiable as Thai law states that
an elephant does not have to be registered until it is 8 years old.
Reports also exist stating that young elephants captured in the wild are
sold by traders to elephant camps and tourist venues, or are taken to
Bangkok by associated gangs to beg on the streets. Myanmar is also reputed
to be the source of a large number of young wild elephants which are
smuggled into Thailand to meet the demands of recreational parks. The Thai
Elephant Conservation Centre in Lampang confirmed to TRAFFIC in 2007 that
the practice of trading in captured elephant calves along the Myanmar
borders continues to this day.
The Thai Wildlife Protection Network has alleged that at least 50 elephants,
mainly calves, are smuggled into Thailand annually from Myanmar via the five
border districts of Mae Sariang, Mae La Noi, Sop Moie, Umphang and Phop
Phra, with the smugglers applying for and being given registration documents
to certify that are domestic elephants. Most, after training, end up in
foreign zoos and wildlife parks. Official willingness to bend the rules in
order to comply with the demand for elephants in entertainment and tourism
both nationally and internationally is harming the efforts being made in the
field of elephant conservation.
TRAFFIC’s report raises hopes that the loopholes in the existing legislation
may be forced to close, ending the rampant trade in this endangered species.
The wild Asian elephant population cannot withstand the present continuous
onslaught of exploitation of failed or contravened laws. New legislation
should be formulated and strictly enforced by a specially set up commission
outside the control of the Thai government. If this is not done, they may be
no future in the long term for these magnificent, intelligent and sensitive
TRAFFIC is the World Wildlife Foundation’s monitoring programme for the
trade in wildlife. For more information please visit www.traffic.org.
a flight of the imagination?
Have you ever wondered where, when and why some of the more
obscure expressions and customs common amongst English- speaking peoples
originated? Read on :-
Before modern technology took over, tanners used to use human urine to
tan animal skins. Cash-strapped families, (large in those far-off days
before the birth pill was invented) used to all ‘pee’ in the same pot,
then take the resultant quantity of liquid to the tanner’s to sell.
Hence the expression, ‘piss poor’! Even poorer families ‘didn’t have a
pot to piss in’.
In the 16th century, it was common to marry in June, as the yearly bath
was taken in May…however, in a warm spring, even a month without a bath
has its inevitable results! June brides usually found it necessary to
carry a bouquet of highly- scented flowers to hide the smell. The custom
continues today – happily just as a custom!
In the same century, and for long afterwards, baths were taken in a big
tub laboriously filled with hot water. The main of the house had first
go, followed by all the members of his family, with the baby coming
last, by which time the water was anything but clear. Hence the
expression, ‘Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!’
In country areas, houses often had traditional thatched roofs; thick
straw tied and piled onto the roof beams. Anyone sleeping underneath
would inevitably be covered with falling insects, mostly spiders, who
love to live in thatched roofs. After a few hundred years of complaints
and screams, someone had the idea of placing a canopy over the bed to
catch the critters… hence the four-poster bed!
Back to the 16th century ground floor…only the very wealthy could afford
tiled or stone-flagged floors; everyone else had to make do with
compacted earth, hence the expression, ‘dirt poor’. Even the wealthy had
problems…as slate, tiles and stone flags get slippery when wet, threshed
straw was spread on the floor to prevent accidents. More was added as
winter wore on and eventually, every time the door was opened the piled
thresh would slip out. Hence the ‘thresh hold’, a piece of wood nailed
in the entranceway to stop the stuff from spreading outside.
Food was pretty basic for most people in those days, too. A large pot
hung over the fire, into which was placed vegetables and occasionally
some meat – a kind of stew, was many poorer people’s staple diet. The
leftovers were simply left in the pot and added to over a good few days,
(the saying ‘waste not, want not’ might well have originated then!).
What certainly did originate was the rhyme, ‘Pease porridge hot, pease
porridge cold, pease porridge in the pot, 9 days old!’
Occasionally, the family might get lucky and be able to afford to add
pork to their staple diet. Many families, especially in mining
communities, saved up to buy a piglet and brought it up in the tiny back
yard as food security! This was an occasion to show off, with the pork,
(cured as bacon…no fridges in those days), hung up for visitors to see.
It was a sign of wealth, however temporary, when the head of the family
managed to ‘bring home the bacon’. A little was always cut off when
guests arrived, with everyone sitting around ‘chewing the fat’ – the
expression later came to refer to having a good old gossip!
Even bread was divided up, with workers getting the bottom, often burnt,
part of the loaf, the family getting the middle and guests getting the
delicious ‘upper crust’, which became an expression used to describe the
wealthy and privileged in society – much as ‘Hi-So’ is used here!
In olden times, glass was only for the wealthy; drinking cups, for ale
or spirits, especially in inns and taverns, were mostly made of lead –
which doesn’t break when thrown during a fight, a common occurrence in
such places! A combination of the poisonous effects of the lead and the
alcoholic content of old-style brews could result in several days’
stupor, often by the side of a road! The ‘corpse’ would be taken up by
well- meaning friends and prepared for burial, then laid out on the
kitchen table for a day or so in case it woke up, which it often did!
Hence the custom of holding a ‘wake’, especially in Ireland, still
famous for the strength of its liquor and the average amount consumed in
Lastly, (and somewhat gruesomely), in Olde England, most of the land in
that small country was set aside for farming or was forest land, leaving
not a lot for the local graveyard. When it became full, locals would dig
down and remove the coffins, shaking out the skeletons in order to reuse
the coffins as well as the graves themselves. Horrifically, tradition,
(or ‘old wives tales’), has it that 1 in 25 of the coffins had scratch
marks on the inside of their lids…a lack of medical knowledge had
resulted in people being buried alive! What to do? The perfect solution
- tie a string to the corpse’s wrist, lead it up through the ground and
attach it to a bell. Have someone sit by the grave all night, (‘the
graveyard shift’), listening for the bell. If it rang, a swift digging
session resulted in the lucky corpse being ‘saved by the bell’; if it
didn’t ring, the corpse was declared a ‘dead ringer’ and everyone went
Aren’t you glad you were born in the 20th Century?
So you thought ‘spuds’ were fattening?
The humble potato has long been held
responsible for the development of rolls of fat
in unsuitable places, even when not smothered
with mayonnaise, butter or grated cheese. But,
are we being unfair to the ‘man farang’? Or does
it have its uses even when we’re trying to lose
‘Yes’ seems to be the answer to the second
question, according to a UK doctor who
specialises in healthy eating and weight loss.
The worst problem about losing weight is the
constant feeling of hunger when dieting. We tend
to avoid carbohydrates as evil foods, and try to
live on salads! This apparently, is not a great
idea, as complex carbohydrates such as the
potato actually make us feel fuller for longer,
and avoid that dreadful ‘stomach thinks throat’s
cut’ feeling which often results in a rush for
the biscuit tin.
According to nutritionalists, potatoes are
wrongly classified as high on the Glycemic
Index, which ranks carbohydrates according to
how quickly they are broken down during
digestion into basic glucose. The lower the
ranking, the longer it takes for the food to be
absorbed, and the longer we feel full after
eating it. The potato’s GI rating varies
according to its variety and its preparation,
meaning that it can form a useful part of a
low-carb diet as its GI rating falls when it is
eaten cooled and when boiled and eaten whole.
Potatoes provide the body with an essential
source of fuel and energy, necessary
particularly when dieting, and help to fuel all
movement, thinking, digestion and cellular
renewal reactions in the body. They are a rich
source of vitamins C and B, plus the minerals
potassium, magnesium and iron, and also contain
kukoamines - blood-pressure lowering molecules.
Their skins contain substances which help
protect against cardiovascular-disease by
lowering levels of bad LDL-cholesterol and
keeping arteries fat-free, and a single baked
potato will provide nearly 12% of the daily
recommended amount of fibre, essential for gut
In other words, a medium baked potato is a
healthy, high-fibre food, and, believe it or
not, contains an average of only 30-40 calories!