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Helping Thailand’s starving elephants

Helping Thailand’s starving elephants

PHUKET: The plight of animals and wildlife in Thailand during the COVID-19 pandemic has been well documented as the decimated tourism sector has left many previously reliant on that field in a desperate situation.

By The Phuket News

Sunday 3 May 2020, 10:48AM

The number of elephants affected by the collapse of tourism in Thailand is set to increase dramatically as more and more elephant owners, now with no income, run out of savings to buy food for their elephants.

A UK registered, internationally focused charity, Southern Thailand Elephant Foundation (STEF), is stepping up and helping to supply vital food to starving elephants in the south of Thailand. Trucks have already been rolled out to deliver this food to some of the 1,360 domesticated elephants throughout the southern region.

STEF has volunteers on the ground in Thailand identifying vulnerable elephants and coordinating food supplies. To help with this work, STEF has joined forces with another charitable organisation, the Thai Elephant Alliance Association, and both charities are together striving to ensure that the collapse of Thailand’s tourist industry following the COVID-19 outbreak doesn’t result in domesticated elephants starving.

Thailand has been in lock-down since the end of March; the elephant parks have closed, and many of the elephants have been returned to their owners. But these owners, often an elephant’s mahout or other individual, relied heavily on the income they received from tourism and, without it, they are now struggling to feed themselves as well their elephant. It costs £60 (B2440) a week to feed one elephant.

Locals in Thailand are also doing all they can to help; one farmer has donated a field of sugar cane to the cause. Trucks deliver mostly fodder and bags of feed pellets; each truck load costs £60 and provides enough food to last one elephant for a week; with 1,360 domesticated elephants in Southern Thailand the scale of the problem is massive.

STEF Trustee, Jakrapob Thaotad, who is overseeing the feed distribution in Southern Thailand with his cousin Sitthisak Songkaew, commented: “The scale of the problem is considerable, but we are getting word out and owners in need are calling us so we can schedule deliveries to them as soon as possible.”

Since the launch of its appeal to Save the Starving Elephants, STEF has raised over £7,000 from donations via JustGiving and from generous private donations. They are also asking their supporters to sponsor a food delivery truck for £60. STEF is run entirely by volunteers and all the money raised through these appeals is going directly to Thailand to provide food for the elephants.

“It is vital that we continue to support this work otherwise the future of elephants in Thailand will be in jeopardy,” commented STEF President Sir Richard Armstrong.

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For more information on how to help, volunteer or donate please contact Gillian Newsum on +447775992124 or email

The STEF Justgiving page can be accessed here:

Sponsor a Truck campaign can be accessed here:

Further info on domesticated elephants issues can be accessed here:

About STEF

The Southern Elephant Foundation (STEF) is an international charity, registered in England, which raises funds to support projects that promote the ethical treatment and high standards of health and welfare of elephants in Southern Thailand.

The major community project at present is to fund the construction of an elephant veterinary centre at Ban Ton Sae, in Phang Nga province, Southern Thailand. The centre, which is expected to be open later this year, will provide free treatment for elephants in the region, and eventually include an education centre and a rest-home for old or abused elephants.

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