ELEPHANTS and elephant-related products can again be exported from Thailand under a new regulation from the Commerce Ministry, which may provoke controversy and debate over whether it violates the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
However, the National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department (DNP) insists the new regulation will be strict enough to prevent potential abuse by wildlife traffickers.
Adul Chotinisakorn, director-general of the Foreign Trade Department, said the Commerce Ministry had lifted the 2009 ban, and issued new regulations on April 10 governing the export of domesticated elephants and elephant-related products.
Export regulations should be approved this year, he said, and would meet strict terms and conditions to ensure it did not violate the CITES agreement or other animal conservation laws.
“Elephants and elephant-related products can only be exported for research, diplomatic purposes or for exchange between academic institutes and museums,” he said.
“We have carefully drafted this regulation in close consultation with related agencies and can ensure that exported Thai elephants will be well taken care of by experts in a good environment when they are overseas.”
He further noted that under the new regulation, the DNP would be responsible for checking and approving export permits.
The regulation will be in effect until the Elephant Bill is passed and becomes law.
“We are aware that sending Thai elephants or elephant products to other countries is a very sensitive issue, so we will ensure that decisions on this matter will be carefully considered with national interest being the top priority,” he added.
Somkiat Soontornpitakkool, director of the DNP’s Wild Fauna and Flora Protection Division, also offered assurances that the export allowance of live elephants and elephant products would not affect Thailand’s status on the CITES watch list or violate any wildlife conservation laws.
Only registered domesticated elephants can be exported, he said.
Moreover, Somkiat added, only government agencies and academic institutes will be allowed to export the animals and related products under the new regulation, saying it was very unlikely that the rule could be used by wildlife traffickers.
“This regulation will only allow the export or exchange of live elephants and related products for academic and diplomatic purposes only. We should have no problem with CITES, which is only concerned with the export of wildlife and wildlife products,” he said.
Sasin Chalermlarp, chairman of the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation, said he was not concerned about the new regulation as long as the export was limited to domesticated elephants.