Wildlife in Peril in Thailand

NOTE: This is Breaking News! A wildlife sanctuary in Thailand has just been raided, and more than 100 animals confiscated by the government. The reason? Because this particular NGO has been very outspoken in the media about elephant poaching and the slaughter of wildlife in Thailand.

Update: There is now a WFFT Resource Center on this issue,
and you can sign the petition here!

I have spent time in the country, and I have supported and written about several animal organizations there. Two writer colleagues, one a good friend who also published my book The Weight of Silence, and with whom I stayed for two weeks in 2010, have volunteered for and been heavily involved with Wildlife Friends Foundation of Thailand, a target of the Thai governmental action.

I found out about the raid when I read the following post on Facebook this morning, by Barb Hautanen:

Barb Hautanen at Wildlife Friends Foundation

Animal friends, as I write this I have tears in my eyes. Last November, when I went to Thailand to volunteer with the flood dogs, I stayed at Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT) which is rescue center for wild animals. I was very impressed with what I saw. Now, this center & Elephant Nature Park (where I also volunteered) are being harrassed by the government & law inforcement because the founders of these shelters, Edwin Wiek & Lek Sangduen, have spoken out about the slaughter of wild animals in their country. All the animals from WFFT (over 100) have been confiscated & taken to who knows what kind of animal hell! Please read this petition & sign it.

Between 60 and 70 armed officials raided  Edwin Wiek, founder and secretary-general of WFFT, on Monday at 11.00 am amid claims that the wildlife sanctuary had illegal possession of 20 elephants. The WFFT have 6 legal elephants in their possession which are looked after by 3 handlers. Several people, including Wiek’s wife, were arrested.

Supporters of the foundation claim that the raids are in response to Mr Weik’s and the WFFT’s on-going campaign to highlight poaching and corruption in the parks division. His latest campaign was claiming there was an official cover up, negligence and bribery in the case of the poaching of 6 elephants in national parks. You can watch a video about the raid by clicking the photo below:

Click photo to watch video

Barb Hautanen goes on to say:

I have volunteered with animals in 7 countries & I have to say that WFFT & ENP are two of the best. In both centers, the animals are allowed to live as naturally as possible, they receive enrichment, healthy food & excellent vet care. The vet clinic at WFFT is as good as the one I go to in my city. I have read many posts from former volunteers at both places & I have never seen a negative comment about either. And, many volunteers encourage friends & family members to go & enjoy the positives experiences they have had. And, each place has had many returnees who loved it so much the first time that they came back for more.

Edwin Wiek and Louisa, a volunteer vet

What the people involved in this atrocity need to know is that the thousands of individuals who have volunteered at these two sites almost always stay in Thailand to sightsee & spend money at local hotels/guesthouses, restaurants & shops. And, the thousands upset by this will take their time & money and go to a different country.

Nola Lee Kelsey, voluntourism writer, says:

Both Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT) and Elephant Nature Park (ENP) have 100% of my support as a zoologist, a travel writer and a voluntourism specialist, as both are excellent organizations. The grounds at WFFT are a wide open paradise of naturalistic habitats with an onsite veterinary hospital. From a voluntourism perspective, both WFFT and ENP are gems in the Kingdoms tourism crown. I have volunteered with WFFT twice, written about them and I adore their work. I don’t have to be a neutral reporter. I write for the animals.

An elephant from Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand

Raiding not one, but two world-renowned sanctuaries in a fit of corrupt vengeance is shameful. An entire country lost face this week, not due to the actions of a few bad people, but to the lack of action by everyone else in a position of authority. I want to recommend that people stand for what is right in the world.

Let us not forget that these are the same two organizations that, just 12 weeks ago, initiated and funded major rescues of domestic species during the Bangkok floods. Where is the love and the media now?


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14 Comments on “Wildlife in Peril in Thailand”

  1. Jo-Anne Barber
    February 15, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

    I am stunned at the over reaction by government and the speed with which they have abducted these animals. There is no way they have a plan in place for the care of these animals.I am fearful they will all be put down or sold to the highest bidder.


  2. February 15, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

    I agree totally with the sentiment of your article and am disgusted by the actions of governmetn officials. As of 5 hours ago though I understand that only 8 animals out of 103 were taken, see @edwinwiek twitter timeline. It is still 8 too many


  3. February 15, 2012 at 5:49 pm #

    I have volunteered at the WFFT centre 5 times and I can honestly say from the bottom of my heart that I have never seen such commitment to animal welfare. What is happening there is just appalling. I am appealing to everyone to contact any organisation that can help.
    Please log into the wfft.org or wildlife friends foundation thailand facebook page for info on all that has been happening. Video footage has been taken on the way that these officials are removing the animals, It is not often that you can capture animal abuse as it happens so action must be taken. This must go global so that people can decide if they want to visit a country that finds animal abuse by their government is acceptable. Land of smiles!!! not for their animals


  4. Wendy Leary
    February 15, 2012 at 8:28 pm #

    To all those involved this disgusting atrocity.

    Consider this…..When all of your wildlife has been poached, eaten in your restaurants, sold for chinese medicine, or killed for its skin, what will you profit from then?

    My tourist dollars will now be spent else where


  5. February 15, 2012 at 11:16 pm #

    Thank you all for your comments and support of this matter!


  6. Roberts bown
    February 16, 2012 at 1:24 am #

    The Government In Thialand do not care reg animal well-fair & when the people speak out they to are punished. They are ruthless and inhumane


  7. Nola Lee Kelsey
    February 16, 2012 at 4:25 am #

    Thank you Shelley, this story is a great help!


  8. February 17, 2012 at 4:29 am #

    HI, I am a Thai native, After reading your post.
    I don’t know what to do and say, but I will share you post.
    Things about people in the uniforms, as you know we can do nothing with them.
    We can just speak it out, hope that someone bigger than me hear you voice.


    • February 17, 2012 at 9:37 am #

      Thank you for the message. Certainly we all know it is not Thai people in general, who are some of the kindest, warmest, most gentle people I’ve ever known anywhere. It takes many people speaking out against these kinds of atrocities, so thank you for lending your voice!


  9. Jen Dowdy
    February 17, 2012 at 9:54 pm #

    I am very saddened that this happened. Those two, for speaking out against the illegal wildlife trade, are punished. Meanwhile, places like Sri Racha Zoo and Tiger Temple, which have been caught red-handed for their involvement in the trade in tigers and tiger parts, are spared the scrutiny and allowed to make their blood money.


  10. May 1, 2014 at 10:30 pm #

    WFFT wins the court case!!! Court of appeal throws out all chargers.


    • May 4, 2014 at 12:08 pm #

      That’s awesome! Thank you for the update Edwin, I shared the link!



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