There is a growing problem with wild elephants in Thailand. Quite simply there are too many elephants and too little space. There is nowhere for them to go.
There are estimated to be around three thousand elephants in the wild today (some say five thousand) and there may be upwards of three hundred in captivity in the various captive sanctuaries, zoos and trekking centres. The animals are breeding well wherever they are.
Recently the worlds attention was drawn to the animals living the Kang Ang Rue Nai national park (see Too Many Elephants) where it was shown that there was as many as 272 elephants living in space that can only comfortably support between 160 and 190 animals. This is a dramatic increase in numbers as research in 2002 showed that there were then only 136 animals there.
Even this current environment is far from suitable. Research has shown that Asian elephants do best in a mix of 60% forest and 40% grassland. The Kang Ang Rue Nai national park only has less than 2% grassland!
So now, today, there is around 100 animals too many. There are around 20 births here each year. This vastly exceeds the death rate and with twenty births per year that means that there are around 40 cows pregnant right now. The numbers are going to rise.
Elephant versus Man conflicts are on the rise and they will continue. Some of these animals have been known to travel as far as 180 kilometres from home. Accidents and conflicts are inevitable. These are large wild animals and are sometimes desperate for food.
One of the measures taken was to dig a ditch three metres wide, 2.5 metres deep and 184 kilometres long in an attempt to divide people and elephants, but whereas people know that they should not cross over to the other side, the elephants do not and elephants do. Any zookeeper who has worked with elephants confined in moated enclosures can tell you tales of the climbing and clambering feats these huge creatures are capable of.
The elephant problem is not confined to Kang Ang Rue Nai. Confrontations have recently taken place on the outskirts of fifteen different forests in eleven Thai provinces.
The Salak Phra Wildlife Sanctuary is another place where there are just too many animals for the food source available.
Amongst the solutions of ditches, electric fences and fireworks there are plans for 'wildlife corridors'. These have been shown to be successful for many species and allow isolated populations to link up with greater ease. In the case of the elephants though, this is not really the problem. The problem is too many animals in a steadily growing population competing with man in very limited space. Corridors will need to link to suitable elephant habitat where there are currently no animals living.
There is no 'quick fix' here. Sterilisation has been suggested and should be given some consideration as awkward and as difficult as it may be to carry out.
Read More About Elephants:
Anne The Elephant
King Kong versus the Elephant
National Thai Elephant Day
Royal Elephant National Museum in Bangkok Thailand
The Elephant Of Tregaron
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