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Thailand criticised for captive breeding of elephants for tourism

BANGKOK (The Nation) -- Thailand is among the countries that that have been blamed for the captive breeding of wild animals, especially the breeding of elephants for their role in the tourism industry.
Researchers from World Animal Protection (WAP), an international non-profit animal welfare organisation, estimate that 5.5 billion wild animals from 487 different species are being kept in cruel conditions worldwide, particularly bears, elephants, and lions.

The number of captive elephants in Thailand increased by 134 percent between 2010 and 2020.

Black bears, sun bears, and grizzly bears are all farmed across China, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and South Korea for the bile produced in their gallbladders, which is highly prized in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
Lions, meanwhile, are primarily farmed in South Africa where they are used in the tourism and TCM industries.
Unlike lions, bears and other wild animals, elephants are not primarily bred for their body parts but instead for their role in the tourism industry.
“These are long-lived, intelligent animals that are farmed or bred in captivity for arguably the most frivolous of industries: the wildlife entertainment industry,” WAP global campaigns director Nick Stewart told British media outlet the Daily Mail.
As tourists pay large sums of money to take part in elephant riding or bathing experiences, WAP researchers believe that the 2,798 captive elephants in Thailand generate between US$581 million and US$770 million (20,805-27,575 baht) each year.
With the price of a single elephant at US$50,000 (1.7 million baht), poaching and cross-border smuggling of wild elephants has been incentivised.
With the industry recently pivoting towards more captive breeding, the number of captive elephants in Thailand increased by 134 percent between 2010 and 2020.
WAP has also unveiled footage captured between 2018 and 2020, showing the unfortunate behaviour of Thai mahouts’ when training a baby elephant using chains, ropes, bullhooks, sticks, and even nails to meet the demands of the tourism industry.
“The abuse is so bad that some researchers have suggested that many Thai elephants suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder,” Stewart said.
Instead of blaming Thai mahouts, the WAP global campaigns director pointed out that the tourism industry should be blamed for creating the demand for elephants that can safely be used for rides, shows, and tourist attractions.
WAP advises that the Thai government ban captive elephant breeding and help elephant parks transition into cruelty-free tourist attractions that can make use of mahouts’ knowledge.
“It all comes back to this idea that animals born in captivity can be exploited more easily,” Stewart said. “We need to end this exploitation of wild animals whether it’s legal or illegal.”

(Latest Update March 7, 2024)

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