An Elephant Kidnapping
A Thai Elephant was kidnapped recently and held for ransom. It was not the first Elephant to be kidnapped and most likely it will not be the last. Happily this story ended well and the lucky animal was rescued unharmed.
It came as something of a surprise to me to learn that the animal did not have an identifying mircrochip implanted. A surprise as I recall reading about a year ago of the requirement being implemented. Just how long does it take to travel round and implant a chip. The chairman of the Thai Elephant Protection Society stated that they were "prepared to buy and install microchips in more than 100 elephants under their care." What? I thought it had been done already. There does seem to have been a lot of talk and no real action on the elephant scene of late.
The big problem with elephants in Thailand is that there are two laws. There is the law governing Wild elephants which offers extremely good protection and the law governing domesticated elephants which does very little at all. As wild and domesticated animals look, sound and smell the same it creates loopholes in the law big enough to drive a herd of elephants through. Small as they are the requirement that all domesticated elephants be fitted with a microchip would have securely plugged that gaping hole.
Strange to relate, and I am aware the numbers are a lot smaller but I very much doubt you will find a single elephant in the United Kingdom that does not have a microchip.
It has been against the law to capture wild elephants in Thailand now for about thirty years and yet it still goes on. Young elephants feed a ready market and without the proper documentation (not required till an animal is eight years old) it is easy enough to have them appear and disappear. Elephants are traded over the border with Myanmar as well which makes the whole situation a lot more complicated.
It is not as though the elephants do not breed well in Thailand. There are at least eight zoos and elephant camps around Pattaya in Chonburi. All of those I have visited had calves on show. I daresay this would be repeated in Phuket and Chiang Mai. There are plenty of Elephants to go round.
There is though a demand from outside of Thailand and this is where the kidnapped animals are headed. Why go to all the expense, risk and bother of catching a wild elephant when you can kidnap an unregistered animal out of someones back yard.
Phang Songkran was a seven year old. Due to age no legal documentation was yet required. The animal had though been loaned out to a circus by the owners. If the animal is old enough to leave home and go to work it is old enough to have proper documentation to my way of thinking. Personally I think month old calves should/must be micro-chipped.
The unfortunate little animal was kidnapped on June 26th 2009 and hidden away. A ransom of 350,000 Baht was demanded for safe return. This is no small sum but then buyers on the Malaysian border are quite prepared to pay in the region of 800,000 Baht.
This story had a happy ending because Phang Songkran was recovered this week after some rather nifty police work. The kidnappers unfortunately were not caught.
So it will happen again and again until the laws governing domesticated elephants are not only revised but implemented to the full letter of the law.
The elephant is the national animal of Thailand. It wants protection. It deserves protection.
Asian Elephant Calf at Chester Zoo
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