Joey was one of three young elephants in Phuket taken away by authorities on suspicion that they were born to an unregistered mother who was being held illegally in a camp in Sai Yoke, Kanchanaburi Province.
In the statement, Mark Breit, Regional director of Laguna Tours and Quest, stressed, “The Laguna elephants were rented from their owners in accordance with official procedures and in each rental procedure we have undertaken thorough and exhaustive due diligence.
“However, one of these elephants, Joey, a two year-old juvenile, was recently taken into the care of authorities while his mother’s legal status was investigated.
“[Neither] Laguna Phuket, [nor] any of its hotels, has been accused of wrongdoing in this issue.”
Defending Laguna’s keeping of elephants, he said that the hotel complex “houses and employs domesticated Asian elephants which, due to habitat loss and poaching, have no available area to be returned to the wild.
“By housing them and involving them in our tourism activities we offer a good alternative to city-based scenarios, where elephants can be seen performing tricks for money.
Laguna’s five elephants, he said, were well cared for and “much-loved by both staff and hotel guests”. They are used to “provide interaction with guests” and as part of Laguna’s Elephant Education programme, which “promotes understanding of elephants’ well-being”.
Mr Breit added that the Laguna Elephant Camp has been inspected and approved by Dr Richard Lair, chief adviser to the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre in Lampang – the place where Joey is now being housed until DNA tests can determine his maternity.
Dr Lair, the statement adds, is “an internationally-recognised authority” and author of the manual “Gone astray: The care and management of the Asian elephant in domesticity”, published in 1997 by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.