Thailand has had a long and close relationship with its elephant population, so much so that we even have a National Elephant Day on March 13th. Though elephants were ridden like horses and used for labour like buffalos, they were also highly regarded, even revered, animals, with some Buddhist beliefs going so far as to claim that elephants are the only animals that can be reborn as a future Buddha. Elephants have been fundamentally associated with ancient religious rituals and the monarchy for centuries; being symbols of legitimacy, prestige and power for all political aspirants. King Rama II’s national flag of 1817 featured his white elephant (the flag was changed to its current form one hundred years later) and elephants played a considerable role as a royal vehicle in both traditional warfare and ceremonies. Yet our elephant population has dwindled from one hundred thousand at the turn of the last century, to under 5,000 including about 3,600 in captivity today. The question isn’t, therefore, what happened to our elephants; but how on earth we allowed this to happen?