The giant beasts now face a severe shortage of food and natural habitats. Some elephant handlers, known as mahouts, barely eke out an existence in the jungle if they do not migrate with their pachyderm companions from the wild to urban settings.
The number of elephants plying Bangkok's steamy and polluted streets, a concrete jungle, results in some of them becoming sick and dying. The picture is familiar to some Bangkokians, but others see it as an oddity, inappropriate, and more of a chronic problem for society.
To protect and assist the animals, Thailand's Forest Industry Organization (FIO) is building a permanent elephant dwelling in collaboration with Elephant Fund Foundation in the eastern province of Chachoengsao's Khlong Takrao subdistrict, hoping that it will help resolve the problem of pachyderms taken out of the forest by mahouts.
It is hoped that the new domicile can serve as an elephant conservation area and as the permanent home of the old, homeless or disabled animals.
Khlong Takrao Forest Garden in Tatakieb district is the perfect choice as a new haven for the jumbos, covering about 600 rai of farmland (237 acres).
The Forest Industry Organization said this place is suitable, for it has abundant natural resources, is only some 180km east of Bangkok and convenient for relocating needy elephants.
The project's construction initially includes an elephant stable, a clinic, a newly-planted forest area for crops and food, and water resources in order that the pachyderms can live in a proper environment.
"Khlong Takrao Forest Garden is a greeny forest, rich of water and abundant food resources that we can feed the animals or plant new gardens for them. There's also a reservoir in the nearby area," FIO acting director Chaipat Somboondamrongkul said.
Construction will take about one year. The domicile will host as many as 500 elephants and be developed as an elephant studies centre to raise awareness among Thais of the importance of the national symbol which is now being threatened by urban encroachment.