BANGKOK. The future for dwindling populations of tigers and elephants in Southeast Asia looks brighter today following the launch of a special training operation for forest protection staff.

The exercise, conducted in Thailand’s Khao Yai National Park, was designed to help forest protection staff reduce poaching of wildlife, and destruction of their habitats.  The training came about through a unique collaboration between Thailand’s Border Patrol Police Division and Royal Forest Department, and the Forestry Department of Lao PDR.

Fifty rangers and police from Thailand and Lao PDR were trained and equipped to conduct professional patrols around and inside protected areas, many of which currently experience heavy pressure from poaching of wildlife.  The participants were also trained to cultivate good relations with local villagers, many of whom currently resort to poaching to make a living. Training in wildlife survey techniques allows accurate numbers and trends in wildlife populations to be recorded.  For example, it is currently unclear how many tigers remain in Thailand. Many tigers have been killed by commercial poachers who sell their body parts on the international black market.

Pol Lt Gen Somsak Kwaengsopa, Deputy Commissioner of Thailand‚Äôs Border Patrol Police directed the training exercise as a special operation. “The future of wildlife in Thailand depends on an effective collaboration between government agencies responsible for managing and protecting forests and watersheds.  Bringing together agencies concerned with wildlife conservation and security in a training program is a natural mixture of expertise”.

The training exercise follows from a series of ranger trainings held at Khao Yai since 1999 by international conservation agencies.  In this particular exercise, The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Rotary Club of Bangkok South, and BIOTEC, a Thailand government agency concerned with protection of biodiversity, provided financial support.

Attending the opening ceremony for the training exercise were H.E. Mr Miles Kupa, Australian Ambassador to Thailand, along with officials from Thailand and Lao governments.  Mr Kupa said, “The Australian Government supports this endeavour to improve the protection for Thailand‚Äôs diverse and unique wildlife and natural resources.  The collaboration between government agencies to conduct training for park rangers is a holistic approach to wildlife conservation, which should serve as a model for other parks and reserves in the region”.

Poaching of wild animals and plants has become a big global business. Interpol estimates the trade to exceed $8 billion annually, with profit margins second only to the drug trade. Dr Chumpol Suckaseam, Director of Khao Yai National Park remarked, “Thailand has the most extensive protected area system in Southeast Asia, and the best economic infrastructure in the region.  This makes Thailand both the target and a conduit for wildlife poachers and traders who operate on the international black market”.  Tigers and elephants of Thailand and Lao PDR, as well as many other species, remain on the international endangered list.

Wildlife Conservation Society Thailand

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