Joining the campaign, the Chartthaipattana Party's director Nikorn Chamnong said that people are confused as to why the regulations have been changed, after live elephant exports were suspended for over a decade. He added that the change will lead to elephants suffering from living in environments that are unlikely to be fit for them.
"We need to consider whether the amendment is suitable or not. We are worried that the law will increase the number of Thai elephants in foreign zoos," he said, adding that the cabinet should consider the exports on a case-by-case basis.
The Ministry of Commerce in April announced the new regulations on elephant exports, which will be effective from June 23. The regulation says that the exports can only be authorised if they strengthen diplomatic relations, or contribute to research or studies. The importer must pay 5 million baht for the elephant, and only six elephants per year can be exported.
Meanwhile, a representative from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation said the department made the request to allow elephant exports because many foreign countries wanted to have Thai elephants for research and studies, including Japan, which expressed a desire for a new elephant to replace the oldest female elephant in the country, which died recently.
Somsak Soonrhornnawaphat, campaign manager of World Animal Protection Thailand, said he was very concerned about the elephants' welfare because many cases have shown that they suffer from being in unfamiliar environments and are not treated well. Moreover, none of the elephants exported to other countries have been returned to Thailand.
He said there are 57 Thai elephants in Japan and there is no need to have a new one. He added that the regulation must be reconsidered with all stakeholders' participation.
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The move follows the death of Phuket Zoo’s three-year-old baby elephant Jumbo who died last month from a digestive tract infection despite an international campaign calling for him to be taken into care for better protection.