Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Governor Mr. Yuthasak Supasorn had his PR team providing a self-made interview on Thailand’s stand on protection of wildlife.
The TAT release states:
Q: What is the history of Thailand in relation to elephants?
The role of the elephant in Thailand has been a long one that we’re not really sure when it actually began. In various times in history, the Thais took advantage of the elephants’ sheer size and strength to protect the Kingdom in battle and also put them to work across the country for generations in lieu of machinery. The elephant is also the national symbol and has special spiritual significance with its deep associations with Buddhism and Hinduism. So, it must always be revered and well taken care of.
Q: What are examples of elephant conservation?
There are many conservation projects and sanctuaries around Thailand in all regions. Examples include but are not limited to the Elephant Hospital in Lampang, the Elephants World in Kanchanaburi, and Phang Nga Elephant Park in Southern Thailand’s Phang Nga province to name only a very few.
Q: What about other animals?
The Wildlife Fund Thailand conducts a Thai peacock conservation project in Lamphun province. Another is the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation that has a behavioural tracking project for goral in Thai forests. Also, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (formerly World Wildlife Fund) has operated in Thailand since 1995, ensuring that there is strong participation and support to conserve the country’s biological diversity.
Q: How is TAT currently promoting emerging secondary destinations to showcase how humans and animals live in harmony?
TAT’s research has identified the need to position 55 secondary provinces within the “big picture” of Thailand’s tourism development. The plan is to create conceptual models that are specific to each secondary province, especially rural areas where agriculture remains the primary source of livelihood for the locals. Even with the evolution of modern farm machinery, the bond between the Thai people and animals remains the strongest in the countryside. This is part of TAT’s “Local Experience” pillar that gives visitors an in-depth experience; such as, community-based tourism, lifestyle, wisdom, local identity and distinction of each area.
Dr. Patrapol Maneeorn, Wildlife Veterinarian of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) talks about the Thai people’s centuries-old bond with animals, and how he is always hopefully optimistic about the future conservation and welfare of animals, national parks, and wildlife in Thailand.
Q: What is your view on the current state of elephant/animal welfare in Thailand?
There are two major issues concerning animal welfare in Thailand. First is the conflict between wildlife and humans. These days humans and wild animals live in closer proximity than ever before due to the loss of wildlife habitat. Concerning factors include deforestation, the popularity of keeping wild animals as pets, and climate change. In our region (Asia), human behaviour like the illegal animal trade and consumption are also crucial factors. All together, these factors drive wild animals to conflict with humans.
Another issue is animal cruelty, which affects both society’s feeling and Thailand’s reputation. In the past, it has been much harder for us to investigate. But today thanks to technology, Thai citizens and tourists can help report their suspicions of animal cruelty to the government via social media or to the Wildlife First Aid Coordination Centre’s call centre (Tel. 1362).
Q: Historically what has been the relationship between the Thai people and elephants?
Historically, there has been a strong bond between the Thai people and elephants. They are also part of our culture and life.
Mahout elephant training uses a reward system. It is a process that requires patience and understanding of each individual elephant’s personality traits and characteristics. Just like the way people train their horses, they are not tortured. People have to realise that these trainers love their elephants.
For other photos and videos, some of them are not a set up but are prior cases which were already investigated by government agencies. Sometimes, one photo can ruin a country’s reputation with the power of the Internet and social media. So, it is our duty to explain to the public, and people have to be aware before sharing news.
Q: How has the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation been active in animal welfare in Thailand?
Thailand’s government agencies have been trying to cope with the problem in many ways: policy-making, supporting research on wildlife, rehabilitating injured animals, and eradicating the illegal wild animal trade. After long, sustained efforts in many fronts, our hard work has finally started to pay off. The effectiveness of our work is the number of animals we have in the wild, and today the number of elephants, tigers, bantengs and many other wildlife is increasing.
Another strategy, which is very effective and played a very important role in protecting animals throughout these years is Social Boycotting. Travel businesses and individual tourists can help government agencies by boycotting businesses that do not take good care of animals. When there are no customers, some will close and some will change. If they choose to change, government agencies would help by providing training with professional specialists in order to upgrade and meet the required standards.
Q: How can Thailand promote its positive animal welfare practices and also raise awareness with the travelling public?
We are focusing on adopting an active strategy; such as, communicating directly with members of Thai society. This can be done via social media or otherwise to create an information network whereby the travelling public is engaged and updated on important issues to raise awareness. In my point of view, existing animal cruelty laws must be strictly enforced and the arrest of offenders publicised to build on the positive progress made so far.
Q: What role would you like to see the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation play in promoting animal welfare in Thailand?
I think we are moving in the right direction to promote animal welfare. What we are doing is collaborating with different organisations and sectors in Thailand to reduce and hopefully eliminate animal cruelty as much as possible. We are working with the Zoological Park Organisation, a state enterprise that is responsible for wildlife living outside their natural habitats. In collaboration with the Zoological Park Organisation, our aim is to research, breed and release more wildlife back into its natural habitat.
I believe that cruelty to animals in Thailand has dramatically decreased. As animal welfare and protection has improved, so has social consciousness of the general Thai public. While these are but a few very small steps in the right direction, they are the part of reason why I am very optimistic about the future of animal conservation and welfare in Thailand.
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