Manas Thepparuk, Acting Chief of the Phuket Provincial Office of the Department of Livestock Development (DLD), conducted a surprise visit at the Turtle Village shopping plaza in Tuesday night (Mar 12) after receiving a tip off that the baby elephants were “badly abused”.
"When I arrived at 6:30pm, I found two baby elephants, one male and one female, both about four years old. They were on show to tourists, who were allowed to feed them,” Mr Manas said.
The mahout present explained that the baby elephants were brought to the plaza every day from about 6-8pm.
"I checked and the mahout does not use any chains or hooks to control the elephants. The two baby elephants showed no signs of injury or maltreatment,” Mr Manas said.
“The mahout said that the elephants were brought to the plaza in the evening only, and tourists were not allowed to ride them,” he added.
Although the mahout was not found breaking any laws, Mr Manas is continuing to investigate the origins of the baby elephants.
"In January local residents filed complaints to the Thalang Livestock Office about these same two elephants.
“Those officers said that they investigated the complaints and found that the owner of elephant camp where these elephants are kept had not done anything illegal,” Mr Manas told The Phuket News.
"Regardless, I followed the mahout back to the elephant camp to see for myself. The camp, ‘Pang Chang Mai Khao’, is on nine rai behind the Region 8 Police headquarters (at Tha Chatchai).
“There they have three baby elephants: one 4-year-old male, and two females, one 4 years old and the other 2 years old. All three are from other provinces, but I still do not know where they came from. I have yet to confirm these details,” he said.
"I checked the elephant camp, and it had stalls in which to keep the elephants as well as a shower area and walking space. The total area is ample for the three elephants.
“Staff said that the owner built the camp to help local villagers’ community ecotourism project, which includes boating, elephant riding, growing vegetables. The eco-tourism village project is still being created, and not in service yet,” Mr Manas added.
“The staff of elephant camp told me that they had a business license, but the owner was not at the camp when I visited. I have since told the owner to present the license at the Phuket Livestock Office,” he explained.
Mr Manas told The Phuket News that he is to investigate another complaint of a baby elephant on the road to the Big Buddha in the hills above Chalong.
“If anyone sees an elephant that is injured or is being mistreated, such as not having enough food or water, not having an appropriate place to stay, or not enough space to walk around, please inform the Livestock Office at 076-216-934” Mr Manas urged.