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Baby Elephant Smuggling Exposed

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Original investigative report Baby Elephant Smuggling Exposed: How Thailand’s Tourist Industry is Driving a Brutal Trade in Baby Elephants

premieres on Link TV on Wednesday July 25, 2012 at 9:30 pm ET (6:30 pm PT)

and will be available online at http://www.linktv.org/elephantsmuggling


The television report produced by The Ecologist Film Unit, in association with Link TV’s environmental news magazine Earth Focus and the UK-based Elephant Family,documents the illegal cross border trade in endangered wild elephants taking place between Myanmar and Thailand. Demand for elephants largely comes from Thai tourist camps where elephant rides are a widely promoted activity and from the entertainment industry. Capturing elephants from the wild for this trade often involves the killing of mothers and other protective family members with automatic weapons. Calves are subjected to a brutal breaking-in process where they are tied up, confined, starved, beaten and tortured in order to break their spirits. It is estimated that only one in three survives this “domestication” process.  The Asian elephant is an endangered species and the capture of wild elephants is a threat to the survival of the wild populations.


Currently captive elephants do not have to be registered until they are eight years old and there are no practical or reliable systems – such as a DNA database – in place to distinguish captive-bred elephants from those taken from the wild. The current market price for a healthy broken-in baby elephant is between $21,000-$31,000 and with the rapid growth of tourism there are strong incentives for the trade. As Myanmar increasingly opens up to the rest of the world, there are fears that the growth of a tourist industry there could be disastrous for the countries remaining wild elephants.


Baby Elephant Smuggling Exposed will be broadcast nationally in the US on Link TV (DIRECTV channel 375 and DISH Network channel 9410) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 at 9:30 pm ET (6:30 pm PT) and 11:30pm PT (1:30am ET), and on Friday July 27 at 5:30 pm ET (2:30 pm PT) and 9:00pm ET (6:00pm ET). It is also available for streaming after Sunday July 22 at http://www.linktv.org/elephantsmuggling . The report was produced with generous support from the Woodtiger Fund and the Shared Earth Foundation.

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One Comment

  1. Thank you for featuring an article on this topic. After five years of living in Thailand, I am fed up with the abuse of elephants that I’ve seen and heard about from activists. I’ve never considered myself an animal activist, but I feel a strong connection to what’s happening to the elephants in Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia. I’ve recently looked into registering a Thailand NGO that would advocate the protection of elephants in the Golden Triangle region where they are most at risk for smuggling and abuse. I don’t fault the tourists mentioned in this article; most tourists are unaware of the poor treatment that the elephants suffer. I think that it is up to the people who have the facts to spread the word to tourists who may then decide upon a different way to spend their money in Thailand.

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