Ivory speculation makes captive elephants in Thailand & India worth more dead than alive

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  September 2013: (Actually published on October 8,  2013)

BANGKOK,  Thailand;  THIRUVANATHAPURAM,  India––Unscrupulous owners of working elephants are increasingly often deciding that the rising cost of elephant care and soaring prices paid by speculators for ivory mean their elephants are worth more dead than alive––and are resisting legislation to protect the elephants,  who have often been illegally captured from the wild. “Officials and non-government groups say wildlife traffickers have for years used fake identity papers to claim that elephants caught in the wild are domesticated so they can be used in tourist shows and their tusks can be legally sold to make ivory products,”  reported Janjira Pongrai and Prasit Tangprasert of the Bangkok Nation on September 24, 2013,  after Thai Department of National Parks,  Wildlife,  & Plant Conservation deputy chief Theerapat Prayurasiddhi presided over a hearing on a proposed amendment that would bring domesticated elephants within the jurisdiction of the Thai Wildlife Preservation & Protection Act.  Currently domesticated elephants in Thailand are regulated as working livestock. “Dozens of elephant owners showed up to express strong opposition to the proposed amendment.  Many left angry,  vowing to fight the changes,”  Pongrai and Tangprasert wrote. The proposed amendment was introduced after Natural Resources & Environmental Crime Suppression Division officers in August 2013 impounded 16 elephants from tourist camps in Ko Chang,  Phuket,  Krabi,  and Phang Nga. “Camps and zoos featuring elephants tightrope-walking,  playing football,  or performing in painting contests employ almost 4,000 domesticated elephants,”  said Agence France-Presse.  “But the capture of wild elephants for entertainment use is banned.  Last year Thai authorities conducted several raids on elephant camps and seized some 25 animals.  TRAFFIC,”  a World Wildlife Fund subsidiary,  “said the recent raids were conducted after police found dozens of suspect elephant identification certificates.  Just 2,000 of the animals remain in the wild.” Earlier in August 2013,  B. Viju of the Times News Network reported that “As many as 224 temple elephants have gone ‘missing’ in Kerala state in the past two years. The forest department has stumbled upon this shocking bit of statistics while compiling a data book of captive elephants in the state. “We found this shortfall from data on 705 elephants compiled in 2010 while embedding microchips in them,”  Kerala additional principal conservator of forests O.P. Kaler said. “Forest officials are not ruling out the possibility of massive under-reporting by elephant owners and illegal transfer of ownership,” Viju wrote.  “They said even if the death of 60-odd elephants in the past two years is taken into account,  there are over 150 elephants untraceable and it is a matter of great concern.”

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