Many elephants working in Thailand’s tourism sector may starve, be sold to zoos or end up in the illegal logging trade due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Before the virus appeared, the lives of 2,000 elephants engaged in tourism were already stressful. Harsh methods were often used to “break them,” force them to drive tourists and perform tricks on the show. Due to the closure of borders and a decrease in the number of tourists, animals cannot “pay” for their accommodation, including the 300 kilograms of food per day they need.
Environmentalists warn: hunger and the threat of resumption of operation is still to come.
“My boss does what he can, but we don’t have the money,” an employee says of an elephant camp in Chiang Mai, where his pet Ekkasit lives on a restricted diet.
About 2,000 animals are currently “unemployed” as the virus destroys the country’s tourism industry, says Tirapat Trungprakan, President of the elephant Association of Thailand.
“Because elephants are increasingly suffering from exhaustion due to loss of income, the situation is “at a critical stage”, – explains the owner of the Nature Park, where the animals are only watched, not exploited.
She set up a Fund to feed elephants in almost 50 camps across the country, fearing that the only options for the animals to survive would be zoos and logging.
“We need 1,000 baht a day (about $ 30) for each elephant,” explains Apichet Duangdi, Manager of the elephant rescue Park. The release of mammals is out of the question since they are likely to be killed in territorial battles with wild relatives.
He plans to take out a loan of two million baht ($61,000) to feed his elephants.