WWF hails Thailand’s elephant conservation; orangs returned

pix 1.2The World Wildlife Fund for Nature showered praise on Thailand last week saying that a joint WWF project with the government and local communities has resulted in zero elephant poaching incidents in 2015 and reduced conflicts between elephants and farmers in and around Kuiburi National Park.

Also last week, Thailand repatriated 14 orangutans to Indonesia that had been smuggled into the Kingdom and seized by Thai authorities over five years ago. During the past decade, Thailand has returned 52 orangutans to Indonesia as part of the country’s steadily improving efforts to fight wildlife trafficking and abuse.

WWF said that, “2015 is turning into a game-changing year for elephants in Thailand because of strong efforts to protect elephants by the government, with support from the private and public sector. Thailand passed the Elephant Ivory Act, the first ever piece of legislation to control the domestic ivory market and publicly destroyed over two tons of ivory to signal zero tolerance against poaching.”

The project in Kuiburi National Park was one of two in Asia that demonstrated best practices for human-elephant conflict mitigation, according to WWF. Research showed that no elephants have been killed by poachers in the park in 2015 so far, and fewer incidents of poaching have been taking place in recent years. Poachers succeeded in killing four elephants from 2006 through 2011, while 11 were killed from 1997 to 2005.

The organization also said that incidents of conflict between humans and elephants have declined dramatically from 332 in 2005, to 274 in 2013, to 146 in 2014. The elephant is Thailand’s national symbol, but the Kingdom’s development has eliminated much of the pachyderm’s natural habitat. Although several protected areas and national parks are havens for elephants, the animals sometimes wander outside park boundaries and onto farmers’ fields in search of food, leading to conflicts. Farmers also have been illegally encroaching on national parks and forest reserves, increasing the chances of such conflicts.

WWF said the positive results where achieved through of an adaptive management approach. “Hundreds of joint patrols by National Park staff and military and border patrol police … are major reasons for this success. WWF and park staff encouraged Karen villagers to stop forest encroachment and poaching in the core area of the park
while encouraging sustainable land use planning. [The] habitat
for elephants has been improved in key areas and local communities are now engaged as conservation partners,” the organization said.

“Considerable progress has been made by the government this year but there will be challenges ahead with implementing regulations, clamping down on illegal ivory traders, and reducing demand,” said Janpai Ongsiriwittaya, Wildlife Trade Campaign Manager, WWF-Thailand.