Officials from the Phuket office of the Deprtament of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) inspected the operation on Wednesday, Phuket DMCR Chief Watcharin Thintalang confirmed yesterday (May 16).
“Officers checked and found that the elephants were not damaging the corals there as the reef is about 40 meters from where elephants walk in the sea,” he said.
“South West Andaman Holiday elephant camp is the owner of all the elephants there. They have seven elephants. Tourists have their photos taken with them and join them while the elephants go swimming (sic),” he said.
“The administrator of the elephant camp presented to officers all the [registration and ownership] documents for the elephants, and explained to the officers that elephants would not walk on corals as that would injure their own feet,” he added.
“The officers recorded the exact location of the reef at Tri Trang Beach and will go back to check the corals there two to three times a month,” Mr Watcharin said.
“The officers did warn the camp administrator to be careful and not let elephants wander onto the corals. If the elephants destroy any corals, the camp will be guilty of breaking the law under the Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act 1992,” he explained.
Manas Thepparuk, Chief of the Phuket Provincial Office of the Department of Livestock Development (DLD), told The Phuket News yesterday that he was previously unaware of the operation, and that he had not received any written complaint asking his office to investigate.
However, he added that he will now inspect the elephant tour.
“I will go to check whether the elephants have any health problems or are being abused,” he said.
Regarding children riding on the backs of baby elephants, as seen in photos posted online, Mr Manas said, “There is no law that says how old an elephant must be before people are allowed to ride on it. The law is very open on this matter.
“If the baby elephant is strong, children can ride it… because children are just riding on elephant, they’re not abusing it. It’s just like children riding ponies,” Mr Manas said.