Wildlife in Peril in Thailand

by Shelley Seale /
Shelley Seale's picture
Feb 16, 2012 / 0 comments

This is Breaking News! A wildlife sanctuary in Thailand has just been raided, and more than 100 animals confiscated by the government. The reason? Because this particular NGO has been very outspoken in the media about elephant poaching and the slaughter of wildlife in Thailand.

I have spent time in the country, and I have supported and written about several animal organizations there. Two writer colleagues, one a good friend who also published my book The Weight of Silence, and with whom I stayed for two weeks in 2010, have volunteered for and been heavily involved with Wildlife Friends Foundation of Thailand, a target of the Thai governmental action.

I found out about the raid when I read the following post on Facebook this morning, by Barb Hautanen:

Barb Hautanen at Wildlife Friends Foundation

Animal friends, as I write this I have tears in my eyes. Last November, when I went to Thailand to volunteer with the flood dogs, I stayed at Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT) which is rescue center for wild animals. I was very impressed with what I saw. Now, this center & Elephant Nature Park (where I also volunteered) are being harrassed by the government & law inforcement because the founders of these shelters, Edwin Wiek & Lek Sangduen, have spoken out about the slaughter of wild animals in their country. All the animals from WFFT (over 100) have been confiscated & taken to who knows what kind of animal hell! Please read this petition & sign it.

Between 60 and 70 armed officials raided  Edwin Wiek, founder and secretary-general of WFFT, on Monday at 11.00 am amid claims that the wildlife sanctuary had illegal possession of 20 elephants. The WFFT have 6 legal elephants in their possession which are looked after by 3 handlers. Several people, including Wiek's wife, were arrested.

Supporters of the foundation claim that the raids are in response to Mr Weik’s and the WFFT’s on-going campaign to highlight poaching and corruption in the parks division. His latest campaign was claiming there was an official cover up, negligence and bribery in the case of the poaching of 6 elephants in national parks. 

Barb Hautanen goes on to say:

I have volunteered with animals in 7 countries & I have to say that WFFT & ENP are two of the best. In both centers, the animals are allowed to live as naturally as possible, they receive enrichment, healthy food & excellent vet care. The vet clinic at WFFT is as good as the one I go to in my city. I have read many posts from former volunteers at both places & I have never seen a negative comment about either. And, many volunteers encourage friends & family members to go & enjoy the positives experiences they have had. And, each place has had many returnees who loved it so much the first time that they came back for more.

Edwin Wiek and Louisa, a volunteer vet

What the people involved in this atrocity need to know is that the thousands of individuals who have volunteered at these two sites almost always stay in Thailand to sightsee & spend money at local hotels/guesthouses, restaurants & shops. And, the thousands upset by this will take their time & money and go to a different country.

Nola Lee Kelsey, voluntourism writer, says:

Both Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT) and Elephant Nature Park (ENP) have 100% of my support as a zoologist, a travel writer and a voluntourism specialist, as both are excellent organizations. The grounds at WFFT are a wide open paradise of naturalistic habitats with an onsite veterinary hospital. From a voluntourism perspective, both WFFT and ENP are gems in the Kingdoms tourism crown. I have volunteered with WFFT twice, written about them and I adore their work. I don’t have to be a neutral reporter. I write for the animals.

An elephant from Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand

Raiding not one, but two world-renowned sanctuaries in a fit of corrupt vengeance is shameful. An entire country lost face this week, not due to the actions of a few bad people, but to the lack of action by everyone else in a position of authority. I want to recommend that people stand for what is right in the world.

Let us not forget that these are the same two organizations that, just 12 weeks ago, initiated and funded major rescues of domestic species during the Bangkok floods. Where is the love and the media now?