More than 3,440 domesticated elephants – or almost 99 percent of the animals’ total documented population in the Thailand – have been registered for DNA checks to verify their identifies and origins.
The move is a renewed effort to recheck the country’s elephant population following the issuance of an order under Article 44 of the interim constitution last September, said Parks Department chief Thanya Netithammakul on Thursday.
The article, issued under the sweeping power afforded National Council for Peace and Order chief Prayut Chan-o-cha, requires concerned agencies to register the elephants for a fresh round of DNA checks, which would then be certified along with the animals’ identification documents.
Under the order, they must finish the work by March. It project aims to help close a loophole involving the illegal smuggling of wild elephants and those incorrectly registered as domesticated elephants. The problem is rampant and severely affects the country’s wildlife conservation efforts.
Thanya said the department had collected blood samples and animal tissue, among other samples, to extract the animals’ DNA and had finished doing that with 1,261 elephants.
The department, along with the Interior Ministry and the Agriculture Ministry, are working together to amend relevant laws to better protect elephants.
At present, domesticated elephants are registered with the Interior Ministry using identification documents, which are based on the animals’ rough marks and have resulted in a loophole leading to exploitation.
CITES has raised concerns about the problem, which has opened a loophole for other kinds of exploitation of the animals, including the smuggling of their body parts.