Thai Celebrities Launch Campaign to Protect Wildlife

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Interactive Platform to Combat Wildlife Trafficking Features Four New Campaign Champions

On September 30th 2015, four new Thai champions against wildlife trafficking added their voices to a public campaign to help reduce the demand for wildlife and wildlife products and put a halt to the illegal trade.

Celebrity champions for the iTHINK campaign, supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded Asia’s Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking (ARREST) program implemented by Freeland, include singer/actor Kong-Saharat Sangkapreecha and actress Noona-Nuengthida Sophon. Also appointed was renowned wildlife veterinarian at the Department of National Parks Dr. Lotter-Patarapol Maneeorn, and highly respected marine biologist, Dr. Thon Thamrongnawasawat.

“This campaign marks a big step forward in our efforts to inform the public about the illegal trade in wildlife – one of the most important issues of our time,” said Beth Paige, Director of USAID’s Regional Development Mission for Asia. “We need to follow the lead of these champions of wildlife. I think we all have to be bold enough to take a stand: we don’t need ivory trinkets and shark fin soup.”

The four champions, chosen for their own empathy towards wildlife and their ability to reach a large spectrum of the public, are helping to spread the message – in their own words. Attending yesterday’s launch at Bangkok’s EmQuartier mall were a large number of conservationists and supporters, along with representatives from USAID, the Airport Authority of Thailand, and the Department of National Parks.

First introduced in 2012, the iTHINK awareness campaign offers an interactive platform to inform and empower people to say no to endangered wildlife pets.

Freeland’s Chairman Kraisak Choonhavan said, “Wildlife trafficking is an issue that many of us don’t know much about; even fewer of us feel we can do much about it. iTHINK was launched to put that right and, thanks to celebrities and other well-known figures, the message is slowly getting out there to the wider public. If we all take small steps in the right direction, we can make a big difference. The planet belongs to everybody; we should all play a part in protecting it.”

The champions’ messages are clear. “Stop buying ivory products and the killing stops,” Kong said in his public service announcement message about elephant poaching. “Very little ivory comes from elephants dying a natural death.”

Appalled by the cruelty of the illicit wildlife pet trade, Noona explains: “If you knew the truth about wildlife pets, you wouldn’t be buying them.”

iTHINK’s first set of campaign champions numbered nine in total – from government officials to news reporters and celebrities. Since then, the campaign has been promoted largely by media placement and related activities.

iTHINK is just one of many programs under the USAID-sponsored ARREST Program implemented by Freeland. Other activities include: Surviving Together; the Fin Free campaign, for which more than 120 hotels have pledged not to serve or consume shark fin; Wildlife Friendly Skies, designed to stop traffickers transporting illicit wildlife via commercial airlines; Protected-area Operational & Tactical Enforcement Conservation Training (PROTECT); and Detection of Environmental Crime Training (DETECT).

Wildlife trafficking is the fourth largest earner of criminal syndicates around the world, after drugs, arms and human beings, while Thailand is both a transit country and hotspot for wildlife trafficking. One elephant is killed every 15 minutes in the world; three rhinos are killed every day in Asia; and 40 rangers have been killed trying to protect Thailand’s forests since 2009.
For more information and photos, please contact:
Matthew Pritchett, Director of Communications, Freeland, matthew@freeland.org
+66 2 254 8321 ext 121
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is an independent U.S. Government Agency that operates under the foreign policy direction of the U.S. Secretary of State. Following 50 years of improving lives through development and humanitarian assistance, USAID is the principal U.S. Government development agency partnering with countries throughout the world to promote peace, prosperity and security. Please visit www.usaid.gov/asia-regionaor follow www.facebook.com/USAIDAsia and www.twitter.com/usaidasia for more information.
Freeland is a frontline counter-trafficking organization working for a world that is free of wildlife trafficking and human slavery. Our team of law enforcement, development and communications specialists work alongside partners in Asia, Africa and the Americas to build capacity, raise awareness, strengthen networks and promote good governance to protect critical ecosystems and vulnerable people.  Freeland is also the lead implementing partner of “ARREST”, the U.S. Government’s largest counter-wildlife trafficking program, which is sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
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