An illegal cross-border trade in endangered wild Asian elephants to serve Thailand's tourist industry is threatening the future of the species, an undercover investigation by the Ecologist Film Unit (EFU) has revealed.
A new film, produced by the EFU in association with Link TV and the NGO Elephant Family, has uncovered how at least 50-100 elephant calves and young female elephants are removed from their forest homes in Burma each year to be traded illegally to supply tourist camps situated in Thailand.
VIDEO: UK tourists fueling brutal live elephant trade between Burma and Thailand
Many of the animals end up being used for trekking, in festivals, as attractions in so-called 'wildlife parks' and for riding at other tourist destinations. Yet countless elephants die in the process, say campaigners, threatening the remaining populations of this endangered species.
Capturing elephants from the wild often involves the slaughter of mothers and other protective family members with automatic weapons. Captured calves are then often subjected to a brutal 'breaking-in' process where they are tied up, confined, starved, beaten and tortured in order to 'break their spirits'. It is estimated that only one in three survive this inhumane 'domestication' process.
As many as one million British tourists visit Thailand's tourist camps each year, it is estimated, leading to claims that they are unwittingly fueling this devastating trade.
Campaigners are now calling on the Thai authorities to launch a fresh crackdown on elephant smuggling ahead of the next Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Thailand in March 2013.