Thai ministry mulls solutions for protection of elephants

Bangkok (The Nation/ANN) - Thailand's Natural Resources and Environment Ministry is considering a pardon for people who possess ivory and ivory products to encourage them to legally register the items.

It also proposes amending ministerial regulations to make African elephants protected under Thai wildlife laws, so Thai officials can punish people who smuggle African ivory into the country more harshly.

Natural Resources and Environment Permanent secretary Chote Trachu joined a meeting yesterday to discuss solutions for protection of some 3,500 wild elephants in 68 protected areas, the issue of hunting for ivory or baby elephants, the conflict between wild elephants and people (damaging crops in forest-border farms), and the trade in domestic elephants' ivory.

Chote asked about the possibility of pardoning those now holding ivory and ivory products to allow them to legally register the items, as this topic would be among measures proposed to the prime minister.

Many influential figures including politicians possess ivory products. If the pardon and registration were in place, it would help the authorities see the overall picture and better control the ivory in the country, Chote said.

The meeting, concerned this could be a loophole for ivory smuggling and difficult to implement, suggested it be made a Cabinet resolution to set guidelines for implementation with the National Parks Department.

Chote would propose the suggestions - along with a plan to tackle elephant and ivory trade issues - to the Thai PM next month.

Other short-term solutions included more intense patrolling of elephant-hunting risk areas, probes into elephant parks with wild elephants registered as domestic elephants, a DNA database for wild elephants, and an elephant food fund to pay compensation to farmers whose land was invaded by wild elephants.

Meanwhile, Thai authorities have called for the registration of domestic elephants until June, to efficiently implement the new elephant ID card system. As of last December, 3,202 domestic elephants were registered on the new system, which also has a requirement to report elephant death/ivory removal in seven days and harsher punishment for elephant abusers to a two-month jail term and 8,000 baht fine (US$278.24), previously 10 days in jail and a 50 baht fine.

*US$1=28.75 baht

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