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Myanmar confirms illegal live elephant trade amid NGO warnings

The Myanmar government said Monday it was certain that elephants had been sold illegally in Thailand for the tourist trade, following warnings from a wildlife NGO that the trade could resurface unless there were changes to the law.

"It is sure that our wild live elephants have been captured by well-organised smugglers and sold to Thailand through the border," Myanmar’s deputy environment minister Aye Myint Maung said in response to a report released earlier by the NGO Traffic.

"But no arrests have been made," he added.

About 80 elephants were illegally captured for sale in Thailand between April 2011 and March 2013, where they are put to work at tourist camps and hotels, the Traffic report said.

At least 60 per cent of the animals trafficked originated from Myanmar, the report said.

The capture of wild elephants is considered a serious threat to the Myanmar’s wild population of around 5,000.

Unrest in Myanmar has been exploited by smugglers who "use it well to trade our treasure, like wild elephants, orchids and endangered animal species to neighbouring countries such as China and Thailand," Myint Maung told dpa.

Traffic called on "outdated" Thai legislation and elephant registration systems to be tightened in case the trade reemerges after a crackdown on smuggling in 2012.

"It is suspected that it (the crackdown) has also pushed the trade further underground; that border trafficking locations and elephant holding spots have moved; and that poachers are waiting for attention to fade, and for enforcement efforts to weaken whereupon the trade can resume," the report said.


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