Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand director Edwin Wiek says his exposure of powerful figures involved in the illegal elephant trade led to him being harassed and his wife arrested, but he refuses to remain silent.
I have been under pressure before, but _ well this is just incredible,” says Edwin Wiek, a Dutchman who has dedicated his life to saving wildlife at his animal sanctuary in Phetchaburi.
PHOTO: SOMKID CHAIJITVANIT
Mr Wiek is the founder and director of the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT) which he says last week faced five days of ”harassment, intimidation and unnecessary violence” after he spoke out in the media about the involvement of wildlife officials and powerful figures in the illegal elephant trade.
During the raids his wife Jansaeng Sangnanork was arrested and 13 animals removed from the sanctuary. Scores of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department officials, over 30 of them armed, showed up demanding documentation to prove that the WFFT have legal custody of 103 of the 450 animals cared for at the sanctuary
Mr Wiek alleges some of the animals suffered abuse at the hands of the officials conducting the raids. He says the sanctuary has video images of one monkey being sent unconscious and drowning in a concrete pool after being knocked in the air by one official trying to capture it.
”You know, these guys are meant to be National Parks officials, but some of them are so inexperienced they don’t even know how to capture an animal correctly,” Mr Wiek said
During the stand-off, the WFFT produced the desired paperwork. Officials are now asking asking for documentation for only 27 of the animals. There are reports that other wildlife organisations _ including the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai province and one in Nakhon Sawan _ have faced similar raids in recent weeks.
Mr Wiek believes the heavy-handed approach from wildlife officials has been sparked by the public outrage recently expressed over the illegal elephant trade. In an open letter to major Thai media groups on January 24, Mr Wiek alleged high- ranking government officials, politicians and businessmen were involved in the smuggling of baby elephants to tourism camps.
Source: Bangkok Post