During the coronavirus pandemic it became harder for people who spend their lives riding and tending to elephants to provide them enough food.
Srettha Thavisin, director of Sansiri Plc., came up with an idea to offer 70 rai of the company’s empty land in San Kamphaeng District of Chiang Mai Province to grow Napier grass, with the help of locals and mahouts, that can feed the elephants.
The idea has led many organizations and companies in Chiang Mai to step up and offer their empty land or donate elephant food.
Around 3,800 elephants working in tourism remain jobless, according to the survey by the Thai Elephant Alliance Association.
“We’re helping each other to take care of this place and the elephants and to search in the area far away from here for food,” said Permpong Savigun, project manager for Patara Elephant Conservation. “We go into the forest to see if there’s anything to feed an elephant. If there’s any, we’d tell each other.
“I wish the tourists would come. If there are tourists, we can afford to pay for the mahouts with the income,” he said.
The lack of income resulting from Thailand’s nearly two years of coronavirus restrictions made it more difficult for mahouts to take care of the animals, especially since each elephant eats about 10% of its weight, which ranges from 2,000 to 5,000 kilograms.
Elephants getting sick or dying are reported almost every day, according to Theerpat Trungprakan, president of Thai Elephant Alliance Association.
Trungprakan also stressed the need for funds to keep 3,000-4,000 mahouts so they can take care of the country’s elephants, which he considers a national treasure.
During all this time there has been no financial support from the government for the industry, despite appeals by the Elephant Alliance.
“Here in Mae Khanin, there’re more than 10 elephants. Now, I’m taking care of two, a mother and a child,” said mahout Gantong Lertwongrattanakul. “hese days, I go harvest the grass I grew. It’s because the drought is coming, there’s not enough grass now.”