Preventing Baby Elephant Trafficking

Why is this project so important?

Elephant calves are being taken from the wild. For every wild-caught calf, as many as five others 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’s 2015 study confirmed that there is a transnational trade between Myanmar (Burma) 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 - present

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 CITES in July 2014 “Reporting on trade in and registration of live Asian elephants”, resulted in the committee calling for a review in Asian elephant range states relating to trade in live elephants. This review (The CITES Review of Measures to Address Illegal Trade in South East Asia), followed on from Phase I and II of our initial independent investigation and will be conducted across the Asian elephant range states in south east Asia. The findings from the research were presented in time for the 17th CITES Conference of the Parties in September 2016.

Our work in 2016  supported methods designed by elephant experts and called on countries to account for their actions when illegal activities occur.