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asian elephants, thailand, thai elephants

A wild elephant investigates a pickup truck in Thiland – Photo: © IUCN / Bampen Chaiyarak

A new study conducted by the Thai foundation Bring the Elephant Home (BTEH) shows that certain types of deterrence measures could reduce human-elephant conflict (HEC) in Thailand, and save lives on both sides. The study’s findings suggest that people’s interest in conserving elephants is more or less proportional to how much they stand to gain from the animals’ presence. It also found that those currently in conflict with elephants show a willingness to shift to alternative methods of deterrence to those currently being employed.

Elephants, revered and loved for ages in Thailand, have lately become a problem. Human settlements are expanding into elephant habitat, leaving wild populations of the species no other option but to invade human territory. Here, they can ravage plantations and destroy houses, which often escalates into direct confrontation. Conflicts between people and elephants result in hundreds of deaths per year on both sides, and pose a significant threat to the survival of Asian elephants, which are classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.

Read the full article here.

By IUCN.

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Captive Elephant Welfare Initiative

Elephants in captivity are an ethical concern in the tourism industry. The rapid growth in tourism’s demand for interaction with elephants across Asia coupled with inadequate government regulations has resulted of poor treatment of these animals in many of the elephant facilities. Other facilities however are working in compliance with the best achievable practices in close partnership with elephant experts and universities. Up to date no international accepted standard and related assessment system was existing. The so-called Elephant Camp Animal Welfare Standard and Assessment initiative aims to recognise the better camps and to motivate those not yet complying towards better animal welfare.

Elephants in Asia

With over 3000 years of captive elephant history and given that there are over ten thousand captive elephants in Asia it is important to establish scientific facts, respect local culture and lay down solid foundations that ensure the welfare of captive elephants as well as their traditional mahouts.

Despite calls for action from various animal rights groups, their approach is often not based on scientific facts, does not engage mahouts and elephant (family) business, does not present achievable solutions nor looks at long term sustainability and the survival of the species as such.

We believe responsible tourism encouraging elephant experiences of the highest standard is the most immediate, viable solution. We believe by engaging stakeholders to seek holistic improvements and setting standards across the industry, more can be done to protect elephants than by staging boycotts or signing pledges. Hard work and hard choices based on scientific facts, balancing the interest of individual Elephants, the mahouts, and the conservation of the Asian Elephant, are required by all involved.

Leading Asian tour operators with support of Travelife for Tour Operators, the Asian Captive Elephant Working Group (ACEWG) and PATA have therefore initiated a process to establish a widely supported set of standards and criteria as a guideline and reference for elephant camps. The Elephant Camp Animal Welfare Initiative will provide tour operators as well as their clients the ability to make an informed, ethical choice

Information meeting for Thai Elephant camp owners and managers (August 2017)

The standard

The standard is based upon international animal welfare and sustainability principles including the Asian Captive Elephant Working Group (ACEWG) principles for captive elephants. The standards have also been subject to consultation from individual elephant experts from various disciplines (e.g. elephant veterinarians, mahouts, behavioural experts, biologist, animal learning experts, researchers). Based on a careful process a final draft of the standard was reached in 2017. The standard includes more than 160 criteria divided over 7 themes and 24 subthemes and provides detailed guidelines for the camps as well as the external assessor covering not only the elephants but also the staff, mahouts, sustainable business practices and the relation with the local communities. Elephant camps that comply with the highest of standards treat their elephants in the best possible manner and are committed towards a process of permanent improvement. The scientific based guidelines cover, for example cruelty free learning science based training techniques, closely monitored and regulated working hours, rest periods throughout the day – ideally in a forested area to socialize, bathe and relax and more. Responsible camps have veterinarians on staff, and/or provide regular health checks. Elephants are not tied up with chains of lengths less than 2 metres for prolonged periods of time. Good camps work with local communities providing jobs, marketing local handicrafts and purchasing local supplies to ensure everyone benefits. Camps promoting best practices also actively support and engage in research and conservation projects protecting animals in the wild.

Any interactions between elephants and tourists are based on scientific standards and do not compromise the welfare of the elephants or endanger humans. Most importantly, all good camps register their elephants with the relevant government department, complete with DNA testing to ensure no wild stocks are being captured and added to the captive population. The assessment is designed to ensure standards set by leading experts are being met and improved.

Currently more than 30 elephant facilities from Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Malaysia and Indonesia have enrolled in the program and are under assessment. They are committed to improvements to comply with the standard.

Supporting tour operators
The initiative is supported by a growing number of Asian tour operators including:.

When you travel with the tour operators supporting this initiative you can be assured that any elephant experience suggested is being held to the highest of international standards and practices. In this way we believe we are effectively contributing to the protection and preservation of elephants in Asia.

The destination management companies (DMCs) and tour operators involved in this initiative will also no longer work with any elephant camp that refuses to be audited or assessed as complete transparency is needed in all aspects of the operations to gauge and ensure responsible practices are indeed in place. Thus financial gains are directed to those working on improving and ensuring the long term welfare of their captive elephants and staff and not to those operating unethically or purely for profit or under false (animal welfare) pretences.

So yes, elephants in captivity is an ethical concern under current circumstances but by working together and using tourism as a powerful tool in the right way, we can ensure the long-term quality if life of thousands of captive elephants throughout Asia and provide clients with an inspiring experience, whilst improving the lives of all involved and preserving local culture and heritage.

Animal welfare auditor and advisor training (Chiang Mai, August 2017)

For more information please contact:

PATA Sustainability: ssr@PATA.org
Travelife for Tour Operators: info@travelife.info
Asian Captive Elephant Working Group: http://acewg.org

Resources

http://sustain.pata.org/interview-dr-andrew-mclean-human-elephant-learning-program/

Statement

http://sustain.pata.org/captive-elephant-welfare-initiative/

http://acewg.org/news/

www.travelife.info/index_new.php?menu=projects&lang=en

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Supporters of an ivory ban protest outside the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, China January 31, 2018. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

“We now need to see all other countries close loopholes that still allow the illegal trade of ivory to continue.”

Lawmakers in Hong Kong voted to ban all ivory sales in the territory on Wednesday, a move environmentalists hailed as a definitive measure to help curb elephant poaching.

The policies represent a massive step forward in the fight against elephant poaching across Africa and in parts of Asia, where the animals are slaughtered for their tusks. Environmentalists estimate more than 33,000 elephants are killed every year to help feed the demand for ivory, which is seen as a status symbol in some Asian countries.

Countries including Thailand and Vietnam are now the largest remaining markets for the ivory trade, and officials are calling on more sweeping bans to be instituted around the globe.

Read the full article here.

By Nick Visser for the HuffPost.

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Photographer: Wayne Lawrence for Bloomberg Businessweek

A mahout, wearing the traditional mohom outfit—denim, red neckerchief, and yellow straw hat—sits atop an elephant at Anantara.

Anantara Golden Triangle in northern Thailand is one of the only places where you can ethically interact with the country’s elephants.

 

I’m half-submerged in the Mekong River—the watery border that ­separates Laos from Thailand and Myanmar—sitting atop a big-eared, pink-spotted, 3-ton elephant named Poonlarp. Her skin looks soft from a distance, but it’s much coarser up close, covered in inch-long bristles. Her gait, which at first gives the appearance of flowing-through-honey movement, feels wobbly up this high. She’s alternately headstrong and playful. If you’ve ever walked a large, stubborn dog, you have an idea what it’s like to ride an elephant. This is the ­bucket-list item that brings people here to Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort.

 

Read more about ethically interacting with elephants at the Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort here. 

 

 

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Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced Saturday, Jan. 14, that it plans to close forever in May after a 146-year run (Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)


When Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced late Saturday that it would permanently end all of its performances this May after a 146-year run, there seemed to be a collective gasp online, along with a smattering of nostalgia for “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

The show has been, after all, nearly synonymous with “the circus” in the United States since the 1800s, when showman Phineas Taylor Barnum partnered with ringmaster James A. Bailey to produce an exhibition of animals and human oddities. Meanwhile, five brothers from the Ringling family in Wisconsin had set up their own variety act. By Amy B Wang. Read more on The Washington Post.

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China to Shut Down Its Ivory Trade by the End of 2017

Categories: Asia, Planet, Recommended Reading, Wildlife, Wildlife
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Advocates applaud the move by the world’s largest consumer of ivory, saying it could help save Africa’s remaining elephants.

With African elephant populations plummeting because of poaching for the ivory trade, China's announcement that it will phase out its legal market by the end of next year comes as welcome news to advocates. PHOTOGRAPH BY BRENT STIRTON, GETTY IMAGES, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE

With African elephant populations plummeting because of poaching for the ivory trade, China’s announcement that it will phase out its legal market by the end of next year comes as welcome news to advocates.
PHOTOGRAPH BY BRENT STIRTON, GETTY IMAGES, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE

China will shut down its domestic ivory trade by the end of 2017, according to an announcement made today by the Chinese government.

The announcement comes more than a year after China’s President Xi Jinping and United States President Barack Obama pledged to enact “nearly complete bans” on the import and export of ivory, an agreement Wildlife Watch reporter Rachael Bale described as “the most significant step yet in efforts to shut down an industry that has fueled the illegal hunting of elephants.” – By Jani Actman. Read more on National Geographic

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The Human Cost of Elephant Tourism

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elephant

Mahouts rest as their elephants eat fruit in Chiang Mai

While Western activists focus on the animals, their handlers are often treated as expendable.

It should have been a day like any other in Mae Wang, Thailand. But at one elephant camp in this small rural district just outside the tourism hub of Chiang Mai, the elephant handlers, or mahouts, were on edge. Somjai, a five-ton bull decked out with a pair of meter-long ivory tusks, was in musth, a hormonal phase characterized by huge increases in testosterone and aggression. By Hilary Cadigan. Read more.

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Rides we should not book

Categories: Fauna, Recommended Reading, Wildlife
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A mahout and tourists riding an elephant in Chitwan National Park. Source: TTR Weekly

A mahout and tourists riding an elephant in Chitwan National Park. Source: TTR Weekly

BANGKOK, 9 May 2016: Elephant rides are heading for exit door fast.  That’s the prognosis presented by thousands of tourists who make their voice heard through animal rights’ blogs and social media.

It is also the opinion of a few far-thinking elephant owners. By Don Ross. Read more.

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World Elephant Day: Help conserve and protect elephants!

Categories: Green Tips
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World Elephant Day

World Elephant Day taking place on August 12, 2015, was launched to bring attention to the urgent plight of Asian and African elephants. The elephant is loved, revered, and respected by people and cultures around the world, yet we are on the brink of seeing the last of this magnificent creature in its natural habitat. This day gives us the opportunity to share ways to conserve elephants and protect them from the many ways in which they are threatened.

Elephants are heavily advertised in the tourism sector; here are some ways to be aware of how our actions affect these beautiful creatures.

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November 02 2015 – What can one do, except feel powerless and fume and wonder what is wrong with some people? And find another dentist besides Walter Palmer in Minneapolis? Palmer, of course, wounded Cecil, leaving him to suffer in death throes for 40 hours before killing him with a rifle shot. Michael Markarian Read more.