Preventing the Illegal Live Trade of Elephants

Why is this project so important?

Elephant calves are being taken from the wild. For every wild-caught calf, as many as five other elephants are killed during the capture. Each year, along the Thailand-Myanmar border, up to 100 young elephants may be sold to supply tourist camps. The full extent of trade in other areas is not yet known. Elephant Family & TRAFFIC’s 2015 study confirmed that there is a transnational trade between Myanmar and Thailand to meet the demand for baby elephants in tourist elephant camps in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Babies are either caught in the wild, or born to captive females in Myanmar and sold as “orphans” to tourist centres. It remains imperative that countries be called to account by changing laws, increasing enforcement activities, closing legal loopholes and introducing stricter penalties.

Project Partner: CITES Secretariat

Duration: 2015 - 2016

Project goals

  • Review registration systems, legislation, regulations and other government policies and programmes relating to trade in live Asian elephants in the 13 Asian elephant range states.
  • Assess the enforcement of laws and regulations and effectiveness in preventing illegal trade in live Asian elephants. The review should include an examination of the scale and nature of trade, trade routes, countries involved and hotspots, as well as methods for moving elephants across borders.
  • Review other key stakeholder initiatives that focus on preventing or decreasing the illegal trade in live Asian elephants in and across range states.
  • Develop recommendations for CITES for consideration by range states.

What we do

Elephant Family, in partnership with The Perfect World Foundation, has commissioned two independent investigations into the state of the live trade between Myanmar and Thailand. Elephant Family's research, submitted to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in July 2014, resulted in the committee calling for a review into various aspects of the illegal live trade of Asian elephants and the status of current enforcement and regulatory measures across range states.

The findings from the research were presented in time for the 17th CITES Conference of the Parties in September 2016 and five key recommendations from this range state review were successfully incorporated and passed on the 4th October 2016.

Recommendations to be undertaken by Asian elephant range states and other relevant parties: [Document 57.1 of Resolution 10.10 on preventative measures against live trade in Asian elephants]

(a) Undertake investigations into illegal live trade,

(b) Develop strategies to manage captive populations,

(c) Ensure trade & cross border movement of live Asian elephants is done in compliance with CITES regulations,

(d) Develop a regional registration system for tracing live Asian elephants in captivity,

(e) Provide information on the implementation of this Decision for reporting to the Secretariat.