When I trek through the jungle, I often ponder with remorse, how this area of the planet must have looked 100 years ago… or 50 years ago…. or even just 10 years ago. The locals tell me it was much easier to spot wild animals a few years before: monkeys, wild cats, bears, wild elephants. Now many of the beautiful creatures that populated these jungles are gone, or on the brink of extinction. Eaten, killed for trophies, sold in parts as exotic medicine, used as trinkets. The jungle is much quieter now and you might not see any big animals on your trek.

 

In March 2013 Bangkok hosted the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) summit. 177 delegates from around the world gathered to discuss the protection of certain animal species. Illegal animal trade is similar to illegal arms and drugs trade, and human trafficking, if you look at the grave consequences and the organized gangs it attracts. As it brings in a lot of money for certain groups of people, the animal rights rarely come first. So 10 more animal species were removed from the CITES list; they had become extinct since the last meeting. The host country contributed a big sore point to this year’s agenda: free trade in ivory. Thailand has as few as 2,500 wild elephants left but the gentle and intelligent creatures remain unprotected following the CITES summit, with depressing prognosis regarding their survival. Thai ivory is used to launder the illegal African ivory and the CITES summit failed to provide a law to prevent this from happening. Shame on the human race!

wild elephant

Thailand is seen as a hub for illegal wildlife trade and wild animals are regularly confiscated at Bangkok airport. Recent catches include live leopard cubs, bear cubs, pythons, gibbons and parrots. But unfortunately, the business continues. There are 264 mammal species listed as existing or recently existing in Thailand, of which 3 are critically endangered (Javan rhinoceros, Sumatran rhinoceros and the kouprey or grey ox), 11 are endangered (including the Asian elephant and tiger) and 24 are vulnerable (including the dugong or sea cow, pigtail macaque, pileated gibbon, clouded leopard and Asiatic black bear). But it’s not just the big animals that are on the brink of total specieside at the hands of the human race. Amongst Thailand’s endangered mammals are species of bats, rats, squirrels and hares.

Bats in Thailand

So when you visit Thailand, choose carefully what you buy, where you go and who you support with your money. Some tourist attractions perpetuate immoral animal trafficking. Always research the attraction before visiting. Chances are that many “wild animals” or “rescued animals” were obtained illegally, the animals suffering torturous conditions. Don’t buy or consume parts of endangered animals or their meat. Remember that we are only visitors on this planet. Cohabitants. We don’t own it. Wouldn’t it be good if our grandchildren would be able to walk in the jungle as we could, and maybe spot an animal or two?