By The Nation
Partnered by WildAid and the Zoological Park Association, the-month-long campaign consists of a series of video messages and posters displayed at the zoos’ facilities, as well as on social media, until May 10.
The six participating zoos are Ching Mai Zoo, Khao Kheow Open Zoo, Khon Kaen Zoo, Nakhon Ratchasima Zoo, Songkhla Zoo and Ubon Ratchathani Zoo.
In the video produced by DreamWorks Animation, Po, the protagonist from the popular “Kung Fu Panda” series, proclaims, “when the buying stops, the killing can too”, as he helps defend elephants from being killed for their ivory, rhinos for their horns, lions and tigers for their bones and skins, and pangolins for their scales and meat.
He helps remind us that the “big guys” still need our help.
Benjapol Nakprasert, director-general of the Zoological Park Organisation, on Tuesday said that each of the agency’s accredited facilities operate with the vision to be a green zoo meeting international standards, and to serve as a wildlife preservation facility and a source that educates the public about the importance of wildlife to the environment.
The organisation hopes the campaign will raise awareness among hundreds of thousands of zoo visitors over the impact of illegal wildlife trade and dissuade them from purchasing illicit wildlife products, he added.
“Through this partnership, we can inspire the next generation of conservationists, who can help end the illegal wildlife trade,” said Peter Knights, chief executive officer of WildAid.
Wildlife crime is a multi-billion dollar global industry primarily driven by consumer demand for products made from animal parts.
According to USAID Wildlife Asia’s June 2018 study, “Research on Consumer Demand for Ivory and Tiger Products in Thailand”, among the general Thai population, 2 per cent own or use ivory parts or products and 1 per cent own or use tiger parts or products.
While the proportions are low, this consumer segment significantly drives the local market.
The most common ivory products purchased or owned are accessories or jewellery.
For tigers, the most popular products are spiritual items and amulets, the study found.
Meanwhile, at the height of the recent poaching epidemic, up to 33,000 elephants were killed each year in Africa to supply an insatiable demand for ivory in Asia, according to the same study.
An estimated 420,000 remain in the wild today, reduced from a population of 1.2 million in 1979.
A century of poaching and habitat destruction has also decimated the global tiger population, which has declined from 100,000 to an estimated 3,800.
Tigers’ overall geographical range has been reduced by 93 per cent, and three out of nine subspecies have already become extinct.
Despite international legal protections, around 150 wild tigers are killed annually to satisfy the demand for illicit products, the study found.