Chiang Mai FeMail  by Elena Edwards
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Loopholes in law threaten conservation of Thailand’s wild elephants

Historical facts…or a flight of the imagination?

So you thought ‘spuds’ were fattening?

 

Loopholes in law threaten conservation of Thailand’s wild elephants

Elena Edwards
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 beasts.
TRAFFIC is the World Wildlife Foundation’s monitoring programme for the trade in wildlife. For more information please visit www.traffic.org.

 

Historical facts…or a flight of the imagination?

Elena Edwards
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 one evening!
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 home.
Aren’t you glad you were born in the 20th Century?


So you thought ‘spuds’ were fattening?

Elena Edwards
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 weight?
‘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 maintenance.
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!