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Wildlife traffickers see Thailand as easy meat

Apr 07. 2016
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Re: “Over 300kg of elephant tusks found at Suvarnabhumi Airport”, National, April 6.

Thai authorities should be applauded for seizing a shipment of African elephant tusks at the airport, but upbraided for then allowing the intended recipient to slip out of the country. Did authorities immediately alert airport security of where his flight was headed? Probably not. Thai cops can’t be expected to think clearly like that.

Surely more traffickers were involved, not just that single Guinean. Who was going to store the shipment in Thailand? What was the tusks’ final destination? Probably China, since the Chinese are the biggest consumers of rare-animal parts in the world.

This was a chance for Thai officials to do some in-depth investigation and make arrests. They could have let the Guinean pick up the tusks and then followed him surreptitiously to discover where the trail led. But that would have required investigative savvy.

It’s not enough to have merely photos and videos of wild animals and habitat. We need to conserve nature. Thailand used to have one-horned rhinos. Nepal still has a few, but Thailand’s rhinos were killed off a century ago. Could species like that be reintroduced? Yes, but only if there were concerted and well-funded programmes. It takes strong determination to protect nature. Do Thais have that, or will Thailand continue marching the Chinese route by decimating nature in order to build apartments and malls?

Kip Keino

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