One century ago there were over 100,000 elephants in Thailand at a time when 75% of the country was covered with forests. They were a symbol of national pride and joy, and featured in virtually every important event in the history of the Kingdom.
But as time went by and humans created and expanded towns and cities, farmland, roads and highways, resorts and golf courses. Also, huge sections of the forests were felled in the timber business.
As the forest home of the wild elephants disappeared, their population sharply declined. Today there are an estimated 3,000 wild elephants and 4,000 domesticated ones.
Humans are directly responsible for this dwindling number, mostly due to encroachment and poaching.
The Thai government has taken several steps in recent decades that has helped, and the numbers of elephants has actually increased somewhat over the past 10 years.
The government stopped all logging in 1989. Illegal logging still occurs but on a smaller scale. It also set up over 200 protected wildlife areas nationwide.
In the past, elephants were used in war, and also in transport and baggage. Today, they are used to attract tourists to elephant camps and in cities for begging. They are often abused, sometimes badly.
Probably the worst fate for a domesticated elephant today is to become a streetwalker in a hot, noisy and polluted Thai city begging for food and money.
The biggest threat to wild elephants is poaching – males for their ivory and females for their babies.
Legislation concerning domesticated elephants remains outdated, and law enforcement poor. The authorities have finally managed to move them out of Bangkok, but some still remain on the outskirts of the city.
The fate and survival of the Thai elephants remains in the hands of the government who are ultimately responsible for these amazing creatures. Image/Google Images