On Monday morning, February 13, 60 armed agents from the Thailand Department of National Parks and the Thai paramilitary Border Patrol Police raided non-profit wildlife rescue facility Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand in Petchaburi about three hours southwest of Bangkok. According to accounts by Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, Jansaeng Sangnanork, wife of founder Edwin Wiek, was arrested and escorted by 30 armed agents from the facility after failure to produce requested legal documentation.
The Bangkok Post reports that 450 documents proving legal licensing of the center’s animals were requested to be produced in a three-hour period. When Sangnanork was unable to gather all the paperwork in that timeframe, she was taken into custody.
The Elephant Nature Park, an elephant rescue sanctuary in the Chiang Mai Province of northern Thailand was stormed on February 8, 2012, by about 100 agents.
Officials raided the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand after they received complaints that Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand had custody of undocumented wildlife and that animals were being held in inhumane conditions. This is not the first time Edwin Wiek and his team have been targeted by such accusations. The Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand states on their website that they think that they are being raided in retaliation for drawing attention to recent elephant poaching. In an exposé for The Nation on January 24th, Wiek specifically mentioned corruption by politicians, government officials and businessmen tied to elephant camps and the cover-up of baby elephant smuggling to “safe houses” near Thailand’s borders and, on February 12, was quoted in The Guardian about a tiger trafficking bust allegedly in connection with several private zoos in Thailand. (See The Guardian and The Nation)
Officials have thus far confiscated more than 100 animals from Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, including Asian elephants, gibbons, leopard cats, civets, and macaques that were being rehabilitated and otherwise sheltered there.
While reporting on an unrelated project, CAT in WATER, last December, Joanna Nasar and I visited Wiek at Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand. We saw firsthand how much this center is helping to save abused wildlife, and spoke with Wiek about the legal challenges he’s faced while trying to give these animals a second chance.
Sign the petition to help Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand before its too late for the animals there.
Morgan (Mo) Heim is a Colorado-based multimedia journalist specializing in sharing the stories of science and environmental issues. An accredited zoologist turned science communicator; she splits her time working with non-profits, research institutes and magazines to help engage the public in wanting to understand our planet. Morgan subscribes to the belief that if you show people how amazing and interwoven the world is, they’ll care more about what happens to it. In addition to being an associate fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers, her work appears in such outlets as Smithsonian, High Country News, the Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife, and the WILD Foundation.
Morgan has recently returned from Thailand where she was working on her CAT in WATER project.
The views expressed in this guest blog post are those of the International League of Conservation Photographers and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Readers are welcome to exchange ideas or comments, but National Geographic reserves the right to edit or delete abusive or objectionable content.