By Yvonne Bohwongprasert
The "white gold" trade is taking its toll on elephants and their numbers are being decimated at an alarming rate. The ivory trade is booming thanks to the "looking the other way" of officials in charge as greased palms bring some sort of justification of this heartless crime. To be fair, there are those who become the voice for these victims and of their safety and well-being. Although this trade's roots can be traced back to days gone by, what is causing concern is the rate of deaths occurring each month.
The statistics show the rising figures which have shaken the fabric of accepted behaviour in our civilised society and the merciless torture of these elephants. Innate greed for jewellery and religious art objects may be reasons, but also with lax laws and with so many who escape the long arm of the law and grow more confident in carrying out this illegal trade right under the noses of the "protectors of the law" is of grave concern.
The problem is huge and seeing graphic photos of elephants hunted down and left to die a painful death, we simply can't give up. While we read accounts of animal lovers who have rescued many and spent their own funds to give them a better life, sadly these accounts are few and far between.
The tide is turning though, and now we see activists bringing about an awareness of the current situation. It's on the global stage, and on the home front, the Prime Minister is also involved. The focus is on what steps are being taken and whether it will eventually be swept under the rug once the heat is off. Along with the ivory trade comes the exploitation and abuse of elephants here in Thailand, in the form of entertainment for tourists, and being paraded on the streets. Their training can be abusive, but that is not in the public eye. It's another matter altogether when they have humane mahouts who train them to carry logs or used to transport goods. But where can the line be drawn, and under whose supervision?
In most Asian countries, elephants have a spiritual significance and maybe that has saved them from outright slaughter as compared to their African counterparts. In Africa, in the midst of tribal warfare, not to mention greed and power, there's not only "blood diamonds", but "blood ivory". The barbaric slaughter is lining the coffers of warlords and the proceeds are used to buy weapons and exert power. Those who dare to expose this crime put themselves and others' lives at risk.
The slaughter at hand is so horrific that the methods used to kill elephants are unimaginable. They are herded into army trucks and tied down on railway tracks _ the speeding trains do the rest. Others are poisoned and their tusks removed; others are starved to death. Now it's not just the locals we're dealing with, but international poachers. This is the present scene so now let's examine briefly what it was like in times gone by. More....