Dozens of elephant trekking camps are closing due to lack of income; around 1,000 elephants in danger of starvation
Chiang Mai, Thailand – Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai – and many other camps in Thailand – have closed their doors due to the current Coronavirus situation, which apart from resulting in unspeakable hardship for the elephants, could seriously hurt Thailand’s tourism industry in the future if no support is forthcoming soon.
This is the opinion of Saengduean “Lek” Chailert, owner of Elephant Nature Park and founder of Save Elephant Foundation, who believes many of the closures will be permanent. “I have been to visit many of the camps and the situation is very serious,” she says.
“The elephants have been chained up since the tourists stopped coming. They are very stressed and upset. Some have started to attack each other from being chained up all day and several have bite wounds as they are fighting over food. The pregnant elephants are also stressed and not doing well at all.”
What does that mean for the future?
“If there is no support forthcoming to keep them safe, the elephants will either starve to death or may be put onto the streets to beg. Alternatively, some may be sold to zoos and some may be returned to the logging business (which officially banned the use of elephants in 1989 due to its cruel nature). It’s a very bleak outlook unless some financial help is received immediately,” says Lek.
At Elephant Nature Park, which houses more than 3000 animals, many disabled or emotionally unstable, a frantic fund-raising effort is underway for food and medical needs. Some of the elephants need intensive, regular veterinary care.
On her Facebook post, Lek thanks donors, saying: “I have been in touch with more than 30 elephant camp owners to help them find a way out. My ability to help these animals is an extension of your generosity, I cannot do it without your help. There is no amount too big or too small to impact the lives of these animals. 100% of each donation is tax deductible and goes directly to Elephant Nature Park. I will share these donations with elephants in other camps as appropriate.”