Live elephant exports from Thailand and South Africa will be on the CITES agenda

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2004:

BANGKOK, JOHANNESBURG –Live elephant exports as well as
ivory sales may come under heated discussion at the 2004 Convention
on International Trade in Endangered Species conference in Bangkok,
opening on October 1.
CITES host nations often win special concessions, and
would-be Thai elephant merchants have been lobbying the Thai
government to seek looser elephant export restrictions, Friends of
the Asian Elephant foundation secretary-general Soraida Salwada
recently warned Somask Suksai of the Bangkok Post.
“Some private firms want the government to agree on free
trade in elephants, particularly those in the care of the Forest
Industry Organization,” Soraida Salwada said. “The private firms
have tried to convince the government that many elephants can be used
for commercial purposes.”
Soraida Salwada said there are now 2,600 Thai elephants in
captivity, and about 2,000 in the wild.
South African elephant exports have escalated over the past
two years, after a five-year hiatus from July 1998 until July 2003
while the notorious “Tuli elephants” case was before the courts.
African Game Services owner Riccardo Ghiazza and one of his staff
were convicted of cruelty to the 30 young elephants, captured in the
Tuli district of Botswana for sale to zoos.

The case was barely concluded when three young elephants were
sold to a zoo in the Czech Republic, four were sold to Mexico,
seven were sent to the San Diego Zoo, and four went to the Lowry
Park Zoo in Florida.
In January 2004 Johannes-burg Mail & Guardian writer Fiona
Macleod charged that, “Six adult members of a herd were gunned down
in Mpumalanga and their eight babies were kidnapped for sale to
exhibition parks,” in a reprise of the practices that were
supposedly abolished as inhumane due to the outcry resulting from the
Tuli case.
Four of the baby elephants were sent to the Knysna Elephant
Park in the Western Cape region, while the other four were to go to
the Elephant Sanctuary, owned by Craig Saunders, Macleod reported.
Saunders was a defendant in the Tuli case, but all charges against
him were eventually dismissed.
In May 2004 South African National Park Service chief David
Mabunda reiterated that SANParks is still observing a nine-year-old
policy of not engaging in lethal elephant culls, but live exports
continued with the August 2004 sale of four young elephants to China
and three to Poland.
In the interim, SANParks ordered rangers at the
Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park in KwaZulu-Natal to immediately shoot
young elephant bulls who consistently display aggressive behavior.
Three young elephant bulls were shot during July for attacking
rhinos, tourists’ cars, and wildlife staff.
Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife agency spokesperson Jeff
Gaisford told Johannesburg Satur-day Star reporter Tony Carnie that
about 180 elephants orphaned by culling at Kruger National Park in
the 1980s were taken to Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, where at the time there
were no older bulls to teach them proper behavior. Many of the young
bulls became abnormally aggressive, killing nearly 60 white rhinos
within the past 10 years. This behavior has rarely been seen
anywhere else.
Controversy over alleged culling by covert means erupted on a
second front in July 2004 when Fiona Macleod disclosed that “Police
and conservation officials are investigating the ‘hunting’ of a
Kruger elephant bull within hours of his delivery” to hunting
outfitter Hugo Ras of the Orion Safari Lodge near Rustenberg.
“Sedated and disoriented, after being plucked from the wild
and transported, the bull was reportedly shot by a Texas oil
magnate,” Mcleod wrote.
The bull was one of four who were sold to Ras by the Sabi
Sands game reserve on the western edge of Kruger, Mcleod said.
“The reserve says it has an overpopulation of elephants
coming from Kruger,” Macleod explained. “Sabi Sands has sold about
80 elephants to private buyers in the past two years, and plans to
sell more.”
Ras insisted that the elephant was shot, in apparent
contravention of the Sabi Sands terms of sale, after breaking out of
confinement and “causing mayhem.”
Noted Macleod, “Ras has faced a number of charges of illegal
hunting in Limpopo and KwaKullu-Natal. Limpopo officials say they
are investigating him in connection with further irregularities.”

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