“We are trying not to let the elephants starve for as long as we can,” says Dumrong Longsakul, the manager of the Taweechai Elephant camp in Thailand.
Around 4000 elephants are living in captivity in Thailand. Some live in sanctuaries and are taken care of well, and others are forced to work and entertain tourists.
Both sanctuaries and camps depend on tourism to feed their elephants. Since the global coronavirus crisis, there’s no tourism in Thailand.
And with no money coming in, sanctuaries and camps are struggling to feed their elephants. Sanctuaries still get donations, but commercial elephant camps depend on money from tourists.
Lek Chailert, the founder of the Save Elephant Foundation, is very concerned: “If there is no support forthcoming to keep them safe, these elephants, some of whom are pregnant, will either starve to death or maybe put on to the streets to beg.”
She also fears that elephants will be sold to zoos or forced to work in the forbidden logging business. “It’s a very bleak outlook unless some financial help is received immediately,” Chailert adds.
Chailert and her team visit camps in Thailand to help with food and medicine. And she urges owners to let their elephants walk freely. Since there’s no work for the elephants, some owners keep them chained so they don’t leave.
Reuters visited the Taweechai Elephant camp in Thailand, where the manager said: “I have been stressed to the point that I can’t sleep, I don’t know what to do.”
“Instead of ordering food for the elephants, we are collecting weeds from this lake. By estimation, this might last for five to six months,” he adds.
The camp is home to 25 captive elephants and employs 75 staff members. Longsakul says he spends around 1 million baht ($30,395) each month on elephant food and staff salary.
He told Reuters that he can neither lay off the staff nor let the elephants go, as the elephants have been raised outside of the wild and therefore need people to look after them.
Elephants in captivity can’t just return to the wild. It’s a long process.
Especially if they’re born in captivity or taken away from their mom at a young age; then they never got a chance to learn the skills to survive in the wild from their parents and herd and are unwillingly dependant on humans.
The Animal Reader is an animal news organization. We want to create compassion for animals by giving them a ‘voice’ on our platform. We need your support to create news stories where animals are the focus. Big or small, it would mean a lot if you’d become our Patron.