Wildlife Fund Thailand shuts down

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2007:
BANGKOK–Wildlife Fund Thailand president Pisit na Phattalung
on June 19, 2007 abruptly suspended WFT operations and laid off all
40 staff and volunteers, effective on July 27.
“Pisit cited financial constraints. WFT staff were
skeptical,” reported Apinya Wipatayotin of the Bangkok Post, “saying
Pisit used the financial problems to get rid of staff who had accused
him of misconduct– such as involvement [through his private company
Asian Wildlife Consultancy] in the export of eight Thai elephants to
Australian zoos [in November 2006], providing rare species of
wildlife to the Chiang Mai Night Safari park, and using his position
as foundation president to attain a post at the privately-run Siam
Ocean World aquarium.”

Former WFT secretary general Surapol Duangkhae “accused Pisit
of having a conflict of interest and not being fit for the presidency
of the organization,” Apinya wrote. “In May, Pisit transferred
Surapol and his aide Hannarong Yaowaloes to inactive posts. Their
relationship soured when the two criticized Pisit’s wildlife trading
“We will file a complaint with the court because his wildlife
trading business is against the foundation’s objectives,” Surapol
Pisit reportedly also owns a restaurant called Puen
Deratchan, which includes a private mini-zoo.
Ten Thai organizations including Friends of the Asian
elephant in May 2007 announced they would boycott involvement with
WFT unless Pisit resigns.
The WFT closure may jeopardize the 13-year-old Khao Phaeng Ma
reforestation and wild gaur rehabilitation project, Apinya said.
“Once a bald mountain, Khao Phaeng Ma is now covered with dense
forest. The number of gaur has increased from less than 10 a decade
ago to more than 100 today,” Apinya recounted.
However, “Khao Phaeng Ma is now under threat from
encroachment and wildlife poaching due to staff shortages,” Apinya
continued, “because the National Park, Wildlife & Plant
Conservation Department could not provide staff” to replace WFT
“WFT executives reportedly circulated a letter to the
project’s financial supporters, informing them that the foundation
is no longer responsible for Khao Phaeng Ma,” Apinya said.
Hannarong told the Bangkok Nation that while Pisit claimed
WFT had run out of cash, it had about $125,000 each in donated cash,
bonds, and an unused building fund, about $19,000 in money
allocated toward unpaid salaries, and a headquarters worth about
“Should the foundation be dissolved, these assets must be
returned to the Siam Society or the family of Dr. Boonsong Lekagul,”
said Hannarong.
Boonsang (1907-1992) started WFT in 1983 under the patronage
of Queen Sirikit, 21 years after founding the Bangkok Bird Club.
The Bird Club was reputedly the first indigenous Thai conservation
society in modern times. The organization was long associated with
the World Wildlife Fund, which is now represented in Thailand by the
WWF Thailand Country Programme.

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