According to Theerapat Trungprakan, President of Thai Elephant Alliance Association, a group of elephant owners and business operators across Thailand, our beloved elephants are facing a tougher 2021 than an already tough 2020.
“Of the 3,800 elephants remaining in Thailand today, only 200 are under government care, all the rest are privately owned,” said Theerapat. “Those that are privately owned are almost all reliant on the tourism industry, which has all but dried up this year.”
Theerapat said that the association had never fundraised, as all members were business owners and operators, but this year in March it solicited donations for the first time.
“Since March we have received five million baht which was our target for caring for elephants in dire need across the country until the end of this year when we anticipated the crisis to be over.”
“The 3,600 elephants are scattered across Thailand, some in large and well known camps such as Mae Sa, Mae Taeng, Patara, but many are also privately owned by smaller operators who care for a couple or a handful of elephants. When the crisis hit, with zero income coming in, many camps had to release their leased elephants, returning them to their owners in Buriram, Mae Chaem, Chaiyaphum, Tak, Chiang Rai and many areas by the borders. This has caused a great amount of financial stress for those who are now caring for them, many of whom have no money or resources.”
According to Theerapat, it isn’t just the cost of food that is prohibitive, but also medicine. Thankfully the association has a vast number of vets working across many of the larger camps whom are volunteering to travel to help elephants in medical need. However, while in the past elephants living in established camps with solid infrastructure which often included in house vets and team of caretakers, now elephants are scattered across remote regions, making it hard, and expensive, to access medical relief.
“Before, if an elephant anywhere in Thailand became sick, it wouldn’t have taken more than a couple of hours for medical help to arrive,” explained Theerapat. “Today, it can take many days.”
The Thai Elephant Alliance Association has one million baht left in its bank, a sum which Theerapat says will not stretch far into 2021. What he is concerned about is when the hot season hits and food becomes scarce in many parts of Thailand. “We first expected that tourism would help by the end of the year, but it isn’t looking good. So we need more money. If it was just this year we would have been ok, but with this crisis stretching into next year, I simply don’t know how we can keep this up.”
Theerapat asks people to please visit elephant camps. Every visit helps and every donation helps. Donate food, donate vehicles, donate money, donate time. Whatever you can do to help.
“Our team of volunteers are all elephant owners and we have come together in this crisis to pledge that we will be faithful to the elephants, faithful to our donors and supporters and faithful to ourselves,” added Theerapat who says that the association publishes its weekly expenses and donations, promising to be fully transparent so that anyone with misgivings can reassure themselves that the association is working solely for the benefit of Thai elephants.
To donate or support please visit https://www.thaielephantalliance.org/.
Photo credit: Thai Elephant Alliance สมาคมสหพันธ์ช้างไทย