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Armed Thai Officials Raid Wildlife Rescue NGO

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.

Disturbing Video of civet being confiscated.

Morgan Heim

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.

Comments

  1. [...] Sangnanork, who is also the president of WFFT, were given just three hours to produce paperwork to prove legal ownership of the 450 animals at their sanctuary.  Despite their best efforts they couldn’t produce [...]

  2. [...] Sangnanork, who is also the president of WFFT, were given just three hours to produce paperwork to prove legal ownership of the 450 animals at their sanctuary.  Despite their best efforts they couldn’t produce [...]

  3. andywarhol
    germany
    March 20, 2012, 6:26 am

    Tierschutz geht uns Alle an !

  4. [...] Between the 13th and 24th of February, no less than 70 armed DNP officers, many dressed in military fatigues with their faces obscured by balaclavas and carrying heavy weaponry, forced their way onto WFFT properties and demanded to see ownership documents for the 400 animals housed at WFFT facilities. [...]

  5. Ellen
    Ontario, Canada
    February 29, 2012, 5:42 pm

    Thank-you for shedding much needed light on this awful situation. An arrest warrant was issued for Lek, the founder of Elephant Nature Park, yesterday and the DNP also wanted to confiscate 8 elephants (5 of which were babies) UNJUSTLY. Please continue to follow this story and make sure the DNP does not get away with their disgusting plan.

  6. Narissa
    USA
    February 28, 2012, 12:13 pm

    I’m another person who appreciates all of what you and every other volunteers have done for these animals. Please do be careful for your safety as well. I will say no more. Everyone has said it well already of how things are handle there (don’t forget on how they have dealt with another human being as well….if you got money, high so, are of or know someone in political, you can pay your ticket out of jail. The dead non-wealthy people/person received no sincere justice). – I’m just saying…

  7. Tony Thille
    SWEDEN
    February 27, 2012, 2:29 pm

    We heard in swedish newspaper that they had beaten up several animals and some of them had been knocked down to sleep , these are no soldiers ,just bandits in uniform.
    I urge all people to dont go as turists to thailand just ban them totally.
    And these people call themselves buddists – haaah what a joke corrupted banana republic.
    Tony.
    WSPA member and proud of it – save the animals they need us.

  8. Tory Braden
    www.facebook.com/saveallelephants
    February 25, 2012, 12:26 pm

    Reminding me of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, it certainly has gotten a lot worse with over 100 animals kidnapped by the inept and unprofessional DNP, and WFFT knows not where they are. There must be more written about this department-wide vendetta with armed men, and insistence that the animals be returned unharmed.

  9. Annabel
    February 24, 2012, 7:15 am

    Why are only my posts still waiting to be approved…???

    [iLCP Editor's note: Annabel, real people on the East Coast of the United States (-5GMT) approve these posts. When they come in overnight, they are attended to the next day.]

  10. Annabel
    February 24, 2012, 4:21 am

    The article in Bagkok Post is a lie….. they were not taking the bear out of his cage… they were trying to stuff the poor thing into a way too small cage ….

  11. Annabel
    February 24, 2012, 4:19 am

    And here is the proof

  12. Annabel
    February 24, 2012, 3:21 am

    As of this morning the article in The Bangkok Post said 103 animals have been taken. !!! And from what the volunteers were reporting yesterday was the worse day with many injuries to the animals over & above totally traumatising them… It is so heartbreaking to see the pictures and the videos on WFFT’s FB ….. it really brings tears and and anger all at once

  13. Summer Dio
    February 23, 2012, 11:50 am

    Thank you NG and iLCP for your support. The raids are getting worse. Today ‎26 macaques, 11 gibbons, 5 bears, 8 leopard cats, 1 otter, 2 oriental pied hornbill, and 1 great hornbill were taken. Please visit wfft.org for ways to help.

  14. Annabel
    Chiang Mai
    February 23, 2012, 9:12 am

    Thanks for putting this to the public … Is it not possible to also put some of the pictures from http://www.facebook.com/WildlifeFriendsFoundation#!/WildlifeFriendsFoundation to show the world that what the DNP top guy is saying is lies …????

  15. Xil lidon
    sweden
    February 23, 2012, 6:46 am

    Thank you for reporting on this, may it urgently make the needed difference.

  16. Tory Braden
    Georgia, USA
    February 20, 2012, 8:25 pm

    Thank you Nat. Geo. for allowing this to be posted on your site. I work on Facebook for elephants, have been to Thailand and I too have heard nothing but sterling accounts of WWFT. After three years of studying elephant plights in Thailand, it appears the only way any of their sad situations will change is with royal involvement, a suggestion which seems to get us free-speechers of the USA in trouble. But if the royals said to stop not just this travesty, but the abuse of elephants in tourism, the corruptness of the officials involved in these raids and poaching (and always it is the animals who suffer), it would stop. Take note Thai government, the world is watching.

  17. [...] 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) see more National Geographic… [...]

  18. Jo-Anne Barber
    Saskatoon,Saskatchewan, Canada
    February 18, 2012, 12:47 am

    Thank You for reporting this travesty. My niece is currently volunteering at the WFFT rehabilitation center. The more awareness and public eyes on this situation the quicker the animals can be returned so they can begin the process of healing from physical and emotional trauma!

  19. Morgan Heim
    February 18, 2012, 12:08 am

    Thank you so much for commenting Edwin, especially while you are in the midst of all of this. We will stay on top of this.

    Morgan

  20. Lisa Critchley
    Perth, Australia
    February 17, 2012, 9:37 pm

    I volunteered at WFFT in 2011 and 2012. The staff and volunteers at WFFT are dedicated heros as far as I am concerned. Each animal is cared for and loved by so many people. The Dept of National Parks should do their job and catch poachers and illegal wildlife trading, and leave these wonderful people alone to help rescued wildlife. The animals that have been confiscated should be returned to their loving home at WFFT.

  21. Edwin Wiek
    Thailand
    February 17, 2012, 8:50 pm

    Currently on the 6th day of the raids the Department of National parks has taken in total 13 animals in very agressive ways. In 11 of the 13 cases animals were injured and bleeding, while their struggle to stay inside their enclosure took took in some cases op to 45-50 minutes. It would be almost a joke to see 100 officials come in one full day and go home with only 5 monkeys if the story wouldn’t be so sad.

    Today Saturday the 18th not sure if/when they will show up again.

  22. JenniferMiles
    Australia
    February 17, 2012, 8:31 pm

    This must be made public knowledge. This must be stopped and the animals that have survived this barbaric trauma must be returned to their loving home at WFFT.

  23. Claire Suarez
    London UK
    February 17, 2012, 5:00 pm

    I volunteered in 2010 and am shocked and angry at the recent action of the DNP. I have witnessed first hand how wonderfully these animals are cared for and rehabilitated. The removal of animals from the centre is an outrage and must be stopped now. Pease sign the petition and support in any way you can.

  24. Morgan Heim
    Boulder, CO
    February 17, 2012, 4:12 pm

    UPDATE and CLARIFICATION:

    To the best available knowledge right now, at the time of the original reporting, 103 animals were ordered by DNP, so far only 13 have actually been removed, but that number is scheduled to go up to 27. Right now it does not look like DNP will pursue the volume of animals they originally intended. I have messages in to a veterinary nurse at WFFT and Edwin Wiek. Please stay tuned for the update.

  25. Susan O'Brien
    Auckland, New Zealand
    February 17, 2012, 3:49 pm

    I volunteered at WTTF last year in Aug/Sept and this is the best wildlife rescue centre I have been to (and i have been to ALOT). It is such a shame that Thai officials are using these animals who have been rescued from a lifetime of abuse, to use them in a power play due to the media coverage of the corruption in the wildlife department. This action only reinforces the fact that they the Thai Department of National Parks are NOT acting in the best interests of the wildlife supposedly in there care.

  26. Morgan Heim
    Boulder, CO
    February 17, 2012, 3:32 pm

    Hi Mandi,

    As of yesterday, there is video evidence that the DNP wanted 90 animals. Prior to that it was 40. I am working on finding out how many animals have actually been confiscated so far, as information keeps changing. I will make a correction as soon as I know more. Thank you very much for your support and comment. Here’s a video of Edwin talking about the raid and confiscations.

  27. Mandi Roberts
    UK
    February 17, 2012, 1:58 pm

    13 animals have been taken from the centre over the last 2 days, not 100 as stated- though I’m sure the DNP would have like that! They include macaques – video of one shows a DNP officer hitting him and he falls into a concrete water trough – where he starts drowning; gibbon, common palm civets and Sandee the Binturong amongst others. The elephants have not been taken. Though today (17/2/12) Dundee – a very famous Thai singer turned up and like a hero stopped the DNP in their tracks!! :D Please support WFFT and sign the petition, please follow updates on the fb site and @edwinwiek, @lucywildlife and @wffthai – all videos and images of the abused and injured (by DNP) animals are on the fb site and youtube.

  28. Dot Kewley (@prettyvizsla)
    Cumbria UK
    February 17, 2012, 11:45 am

    I have also been a volunteer at the centre, when I first became aware of what was happening earlier this week I was physically sick and could not stop crying. My experience at the centre was life changing, my memories magical and my respect for Edwin, the founder, gave me the drive to continue the work at home. His philosophy and ethics towards wildlife are a role model that should be adopted in other “so called” sanctuaries. The welfare of the animals at WFFT comes first and foremost, he runs a tight ship where as a volunteer your reward is to observe beautiful creatures living happily in conditions as close to their natural habitat as possible. Many animals receive medical treatment, rehabilitation and release back into the wild. For the animals, due to a multitude of reasons, including diabetes and blindness, live out their lives in the most humane conditions possible. Please support WFFT and sign the petition now

  29. Nola Lee Kelsey
    South Dakota USA
    February 17, 2012, 9:06 am

    Thank yo for drawing the worlds attention to this unbelievable level of intimidation victimizing rescued wildlife as pawns in a game of corrupting. Shame on Thailand for letting this go so far. They need to show the world these were the actions of a few ignorant people and return ALL the seized animals to the safety of WFFT before they can begin to mend the damage that has been done to the country’s reputation.

  30. Gemma
    UK
    February 17, 2012, 9:00 am

    The WFFT do a fantastic job trying to help and rescue animals in Thailand, If you want to show your support for them please sign this petition: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/2/urgent-plea-for-rescued-thai-wildlife/?cid=FB_Share

  31. Jess Vogel
    Australia
    February 17, 2012, 8:51 am

    I volunteered for 4 weeks at WFFT last year and I support them 100%. The animals at the centre are some of the most cared for creatures in Thailand.They are far better off than the animals in Thailands so-called zoo’s let alone the elephant camps and so on. Please support WFFT in ANY way you can.