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20 things to think about when interacting with animals in Thailand

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Maybe this will help some people who intend to vist some animals whilst visiting Thailand.

20 things to think about when interacting or encountering animals in Thailand

1. How can you tell? - What can you tell in a day? “The average tourist doesn’t have the capacity to identify cruelty to animals because sometimes that cruelty is not overt.” Born Free Foundation
It’s almost impossible but try to keep in mind some of these items.....

2. The Law - Thailand has virtually no animal cruelty laws. - Prevention of Animal Cruelty Act - Dec 2014 - is Thailand’s FIRST EVER legislation!! -up to 1 month and/or fined up to 1,000 Baht - it is not clear whether this is extends to wild animals or only to protect domestic animals,. Omitted are such acts as “discarding animals or keeping them too narrowly confined, animals fighting for sport, the eating of live animals, as well as prohibiting the trade of dogs and cats for consumption.”

3. Zoos and Captive Animals - in the west, zoos are now largely scientific establishments that research wildlife and conservation - exhibiting the animals is of secondary importance.
Zoos in Thailand are not scientific institutions they are more like circuses. Keeping of protected wildlife is technically illegal. Permission is needed to start a zoo but guidelines are unclear and inspections were not required until recently. All this falls well short of international standards

4. Enforcement and Corruption - How much do the authorities do? - Granting of licences seems casual to say the least; some granted seem to fly in the face of common sense.. When it comes to taking action against any animal establishment the authorities have been notably reticent.
Many people assume that if a place was operating outside reasonably acceptable standards, it would have been brought to task or closed. This is NOT the case in Thailand.
It is often difficult for visitors to Thailand to understand the depth breadth and all permeating influence of graft, nepotism and corruption in Thailand - it means sometimes you can get away with murder, quite literally, if you have the connections and the money

5. Are they GREEN? Beware of claims of “conservation” - they are usually false. E.g. most large mammals cannot under any circumstances be released into the wild - tigers are incapable of survival without training from their mothers and would have no fear of humans. - Elephants can be released into large reserves, but unfenced would encroach on human habitation.
“There is no alternative, animals must earn their keep” - This is a false perception. Many of these animals are illegally bred for profit in the first place. Owners have even under Thai law, a duty of correct care. There is also still a lot of habitat in Thailand that is suitable for conservation of both wild and captive animals. A survey in about 2007 showed potential for up to 2000 tigers - the current population in and around Thailand is between 100 and 300.
Conservation is not about keeping enough examples for us to look at. It is all about protecting the environment and preserving fully functioning eco-systems in the wild - the idea that examples in a zoo mean everything is OK is wildly out of touch with the real situation.
Keystone species: are animals that form a major part in the working of a bio-system. Tigers are apex predators; take them out of a forest and deer proliferate, trees get eaten and the system is damaged, it may even collapse. Elephants are the “tractors” of a system - They roam and eat vegetation which ensures distribution of seeds growth of plants, they give access for smaller animals to water and food; CAGED, animals take no part in this.

6. Cages - most cages in Thailand fail to meet minimum internationally accepted requirements. Size and time locked up are important. (Tigers need space in the wild - males up to 60 to 100 km2, females up to 20 km2). Bare cages are boring - animals need stimulation. They need something to do and some cover. (e.g. - Tigers are solitary and territorial by nature and seeing other tigers or any animals nearby can cause considerable stress)

7. Repetitive behaviour/lethargy. Caged animals often display clearly identifiable signs of psychological damage, resulting in unnatural behaviour patterns - these animals are stressed. Big Cats pace cages because they are bored out of their minds LITERALLY!

8. Tricks and Shows - If an establishment is making animals do tricks, such as paint, Orang-utans boxing - tigers jumping through hoops or behaviour that isn’t natural - then it is reasonable to assume that the are animals are being exploited. Training can be harsh and cruel

9. Babies - Be very suspicious of places with lots of young of any kind - Breeding of animals is a scientifically complex activity that takes into account many conservation issues. - Even if the animals themselves breed readily - it can result in inbreeding, hybrids and unwanted animals, and damage to gene pools. Unscrupulous operators usually do this to bring in customers to pet the babies. Breeding in captivity and a captive breeding program are not the same thing.

10. Speed-breeding is a set of techniques used by such places as tiger farms to keep female tigers producing litter after litter. It means there are always a few babies around to attract the public. Stillborns and runts are common in Tiger litters and can be used for bottling for TCM.

11. Mixed species exhibits - e.g. Pigs suckling tiger cubs - is a technique for speed breeding - taking the cubs from their mothers early on triggers a hormonal response and the female tiger can become pregnant again.

12. Animals don’t wear clothes.

13. Street Animals - Don’t pet, pose with or pay vendors carrying street animals - these creatures are subjected to horrendous abuse (drugging etc., in the case of reptiles having their mouths sewn shut), when their usefulness expires or they become too unmanageable they are killed.

14. Drugging - Anything from an iguana to an elephant - in Thailand they are habitually drugged to make them easier to handle - however with any kind of prolonged drug abuse there are side effects - this can often be unpredictable and violent behaviour. Animals have comedowns too.

15. Dogs - Don’t feed Soi dogs. Thailand has a serious stray dog problem - it is sustained by access to food- often garbage and donations by misguided but well-meaning people. If food runs low dogs stop breeding and the numbers of diseased and wretched animals roaming the streets reduces. If you must get involved with a street dog - get it neutered or spayed
Dogs as food - many dogs are caught and shipped abroad for human consumption. BUT - Dogs are also eaten in Thailand. They are often tortured to death, as it is believed that it tenderises the meat. Many have their legs broken and tied hind there backs to make transport easier. Consumption of dog meat is LEGAL in Thailand.

16. Looking after animals - Giving an animal your affection for 10 minutes - or even a day or a week doesn’t necessarily improve it’s life overall - your money is going to support or continue the abuse or suffering

17. Elephants don’t live in Towns and can’t carry heavy loads. - Elephants’ backs aren’t capable of carrying heavy weights. They are the wrong shape (In logging they were used for PULLING). If they offer elephant rides they are most likely exploiting their animals.

18. Mahouts are frequently frauds - a mahout traditionally lived with one elephant for his entire career. The “handlers” around parks and towns are usually inexperienced and RENT the elephant of its owner in order to make a bit of cash.

19. Websites/forums promoting wildlife attractions. Are not always as unbiased as you might think - they receive advertising revenue of tour companies who profit from animal attractions. Advice is from people who either don’t understand the issues or refuse to accept they have participated in animal exploitation themselves

20. CITES - “Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora” - is an international treaty to protect endangered plants and animals. Thailand is a signatory and has been under pressure over the last few years to clean up their act and start shutting down the trade in a multitude of endangered flora and fauna. If you see animal products on sale such as ivory, amulets or skins, report it -

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