Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Elephants in Thailand

Probably unique in the worlds newspapers is 'The Bangkok Post'. I say this because scarcely a week passes without a mention of elephants and more usually they get press two or three times.

Thai people like elephants (though Dao is terrified of them) and tourists see them as a 'must see'. In and around Pattaya (my present base) there are at least five, and probably more (I have visited five without actually going to an 'elephant camp'), places exhibiting elephants. Exhibiting or using? Both really.

What to do with all the elephants? Every place I have been they are breeding. Pattaya is only one part of Thailand. Phuket and Chiang Mai both have as many, or more elephants than Pattaya.

Here too we have our unofficial elephants. Dao's bar is visited practically every night by one. Assisted by two or more mahouts people are encouraged to purchase small bags of sugar cane to feed to the animal for luck. On Khung's birthday she crawled underneath the animal three time for extra luck.
Twice the elephant has been ambushed by the police outside our bar. I was surprised at what a turn of speed the animal had as it sped off into the darkness. On one occasion the police arrested all the mahouts. The elephant returned later alone and was having a jolly time rooting through dustbins for something more tasty than sugar cane.

Smaller, very small elephants work the 'box bars' where bigger elephants can not tread. A couple of weeks ago I was knocked arse over tip by an elephant I never saw nor heard coming. Admittedly I was distracted. At the time I was trying to examine a cat I had found. The cat was wearing a coat (peculiar). Whop! Still, no harm done.

How many elephants work the streets of Pattaya is a mystery to me. It is a big city. Maybe a dozen. Where do they go in the day? If the country can hide thousands of singly held crocodiles then a few elephants are not going to present too much of a problem. There is a problem though and this is outlined in yesterdays Bangkok Post:

EDITORIAL Plight of the jumbos
The various projects to help the elephants of Bangkok have finally begun to take shape. Thanks to public donations, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration has been able to purchase a 30-year-old, partially blind animal. Instead of begging for food in the dangerous capital city, Pang Bua Kham will get a home at the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre in Lampang. The rescue of this elephant is a heart-warming story, and a project that deserved ........................

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