Protecting the Elephants in Thailand
In recent times protecting animals in their natural habitat has become a global concern, with every country having their own species to be concerned about. If you are planning a trip to an overseas destination, knowing the rules or regulations for visiting any endangered or protected animals is essential for all travellers – not only for legal reasons, but also as a safety precaution. This is no different for the elephants of Thailand.
Thailand’s elephant population is divided into two categories: elephants in the wild fall under the protected animal category (to stop hunters seeking the valuable ivory tusks), while domestic working elephants are covered by the 1939 Beast of Burden Act. This means that whoever owns the animal is fully responsible for the elephants care, upkeep and health – which in a country full of poverty, presents issues in itself.
The problem is that in many countries these animals are such an integral part of society’s fabric that officials struggle to agree on a plan. Thailand has a long history of using elephants to perform mundane tasks and are considered a big part of basic society – yet the biggest problems come from the fact that there are so many unemployed domestic animals. Earlier in the century, hundreds (if not thousands) of elephants were taken from the wild to be used for clearing the land, tourism and other physical labour. With logging banned and machines to perform physical tasks, Thailand is now swamped with an over-abundance of domesticated elephants that are literally starving to death.
Many people believe these elephants should simply be returned to the wild. But with the rapid rate that elephants are losing their natural habitat to development, there is simply nowhere left. Adding to this problem is the fact that elephants often migrate through large tracts of land for food and water – something they just can’t do anymore when there are towns and cities blocking the way. With fewer elephants existing in the wild every year, many people are calling for Thailand elephants to be listed on the endangered list.
As a result, elephant sanctuaries are popping up all over the country for both domesticated and wild elephants. Usually located in remote or rural settings, these sanctuaries provide international visitors with the opportunity of seeing the elephant up close in their natural environment. If you are drawn to the plight of Thailand’s elephants, you can elect to take part in our volunteer program where you will live and breathe everything elephant and can see for yourself how important it is to protect these animals from dying.