Bangkok, 5 June 2016 – Thai celebrities and wildlife advocates, Kong Saharat, Lotter Pattarapol, Noona Nuengthida, and Dr. Thon Thamrongnawasawat, joined A-list celebrities around the world to rally citizen support to end demand that is driving illegal trade in wildlife.
Messages from the four celebrities to spur action to protect endangered species, alongside global Supermodel, Gisele Bundchen, actor Ian Somerhalder, Nikki Reed, Li Bingbing and footballer Yaya Toure, were featured in a World Environment Day (WED) exhibition on the theme, “Go Wild for Life”, that opened at the BTS National Stadium Skywalk today and runs till 5 July 2016.
“Most ivory comes from the illegal poaching of elephants, killed for their tusks to produce ivory products. Killing elephants for ivory ornaments or jewelry seems so senseless and is such a loss for all of us. . Stop buying, and the killing stops,” said Thai superstar Kong Saharat, an outspoken advocate for Thailand’s national animal, the elephant.
World Environment Day 2016 focuses on the urgent need for all to act against the escalating crisis of wildlife crime which seriously threatens iconic species, with some populations on the brink of extinction. Today illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be worth US$50-150 billion per year, with forest crime and illegal logging estimated to be between US$30–100 billion annually.
“Wildlife and forest crime deprives countries of billions of dollars’ worth of resources, which are cornered by organized international cartels, damages and destroys ecosystems, increasing public health risks, and increases poverty. The urgency to tackle illegal wildlife trade should be a high priority,” said Isabelle Louis, Acting Regional Director of the United Nations Environment Programme.
Countries in Asia-Pacific are a major source, destination and transit points for illegal trade in wildlife. Much of the ivory taken from nearly 25,000 elephants each year is destined for the region. Items made from elephant ivory, tiger parts and derivatives, and rhino horn make their way to Laos and on to markets in China and Viet Nam.
“Since 2010, the BTS Group has supported the conservation, care and treatment of injured elephants across Thailand, which is featured in this World Environment Day exhibition, along with other iconic species like the tiger, rhino, and pangolin. We are pleased to partner in this initiative to raise awareness about illegal trade in wildlife, which has grave implications for people and countries in our region,” said Surapong Laoha-Unya, Chief Executive Officer, Bangkok Mass Transit System Public Company Limited
“Scientists are forging new links between the natural world and the animals that live there, which also serves as a defense against climate change,” said Steven Galster, Executive Director and Founder of Freeland. “There is now scientific proof that animals play an important role in dispersing certain tree species that help cut down carbon emissions. As these animals are poached, the forests’ ability to soak up and store carbon is compromised.”
The exhibition was part of the commemoration of WED that also included life-size figures of animals, banners and artwork by Thai students and teachers at the Bangkok Cultural Centre (BACC), where T-shirt and henna painting of animals were done for pedestrians. Card wallets with WED messages were also handed out to the BTS SkyTrain commuters.
The WED Commemoration was organized by UNEP with Freeland, the Bangkok Mass Transit System Public Company Ltd., the Bangkok Cultural Centre, Roongaroon School and Thammasart University.
Notes to Editors
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About World Environment Day
World Environment Day (WED) is the United Nations’ most important day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment. Since it began in 1974, it has grown to become a global platform for public outreach that is widely celebrated in over 100 countries. Above all, WED serves as the ‘people’s day’ for doing something to take care of the Earth or become an agent of change.
iTHINK is a global forum for wildlife protection. It is a tool to encourage people to start thinking, share their opinions, and act for conservation. iTHINK is designed as a resource for wildlife lovers, guiding them to specific actions they can take or groups they can join to help expand awareness and reduce demand of wild products. iTHINK encourages everyone to speak up about what wildlife means to them, and why we must stop illegal trade and unsustainable consumption of endangered species.
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” (Asia’s Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking), the U.S. Government’s largest counter-wildlife trafficking program, which is sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
About BTS Elephant Conservation Project
In 2006 BTS started providing support to Thai elephants by reproducing elephant paintings on BTS passes, the proceeds of which were presented to the Elephant Conservation Centre, under the patronage of HRH Princess Galayani Vadhana Krom Luang Narathiwas Rajanagarindra.
In 2011, BTS initiated the 2nd BTS Thai Elephant Conservation Project, providing support for the construction of a new elephant hospital in Krabi province. The new hospital is now completed and serves 14 provinces in the Southern region, providing first-aid treatment to injured elephants that have mostly been retired from working in heavy industry and the tourism business.
The Elephant Treatment Centre Project was launched in 2012 to support the primary aims of the ‘2nd Thai Elephant Conservation Project’, by providing medical supplies for the operation of the elephant hospital in Lampang province, followed by the adoption of 10 elephants at the Save Elephants Foundation in Mae Tang District, Chiang Mai province.