THAILAND - More than 10,000 wild animals have been seized from illegal trade during the past year, the national wildlife protection agency said yesterday.
Sunda pangolins, squirrels, elephants, tigers and gibbons became the most frequently seized mammals in Thailand's illegal wildlife trade last year, said Tiradej Palasuwan of the Wildlife Conservation Office.
He was speaking at a seminar titled "Legal Revisions to Stop Wildlife Crime" organised by the Freeland Foundation and its allies.
He said the department had confiscated about 10,700 live animals, 1,348 carcasses, and 3,293 kilograms of animal parts from traffickers in the past year.
His department also arrested 642 people allegedly involved in illegal wildlife trade in 2013.
"It was very difficult to arrest the wildlife traffickers as they have developed tricks to avoid the eyes of police," he said.
They used many cars and trucks to transfer animals and parts, especially Sunda pangolins and tigers from Malaysia, to cross the borders of Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.
"We found that the traffickers changed car registration and drivers a lot while they were transferring wildlife from Malaysia to Vietnam," he said.
He also accepted that it was very hard to get to influential people behind the wildlife trafficking because of loopholes in the law, and many traffickers do not provide any details about the people who hired them to smuggle wildlife.
The wildlife watch agency also found that Bangkok was a hub of wildlife trafficking, as many storehouses to keep the animals were set up here. Most of those arrested in the past year were based in Bangkok, followed by Nonthaburi and Samut Prakan, which were used for the illegal export of wild animals.
In a related development, the Customs Department last week arrested traffickers who smuggled five rhinoceros horns worth Bt12 million (S$470,000) from Rwanda and destined for Laos. The horns were hidden inside small sculptures. The department found that the route of rhino-horn smuggling started from Africa and went through the Middle East and India to Thailand and Vietnam.