Manas Thepparuk, Chief of the Phuket office of the Department of Livestock Development (DLD), told The Phuket News this week that his office had conducted inspections of the 34 elephant camps (“Pang” in Thai) in Phuket.
The camps are still home to 246 elephants, whose owners all depend on some form of tourism for income to feed and care for the elephants, Mr Manas noted.
“The elephants for now are all well kept and healthy, but some of the camps are already relying on donations from charities such as the Save Elephant Foundation in order to feed their elephants,” he said.
The Save Elephant Foundation was in Phuket last week to take into care adult female Tang Mo, who had been kept at Phuket Zoo since she was 2 years old after being transported from Isarn (Northeast Thailand).
“This is the first time in twenty years that Tang Mo had to get on a truck. We were worried that this would be difficult, but she went on willingly,” the foundation reported.
Tang Mo arrived safely at the foundation’s Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai on Aug 12, World Elephant Day, and is now eating healthily.
However, Tang Mo for now remains separated from young elephant San Mueang, also kept by the zoo. “For San Mueang, we will return for him as soon as possible,” the Save Elephant Foundation reported.
Yet concerns remain for the elephants still on the island, especially with the simple ability of feeding them.
“We are not too concerned about the elephants in camps in Phang Nga, as there is plenty of the right grass and fruit available in Phang Nga to feed elephants there,” Mr Manas said.
“But for the elephants in Phuket, we are coordinating with the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation [DNP] and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment [MNRE] to allow elephant owners to cut grass in specific [protected] areas in order to feed their elephants,” he added.
“For now, most owners still have food for their elephants, but they will need help soon. They will need help because they have no income, as their major source of income comes from tourists. I am worried because many owners need to use the money they have just to pay rent for the areas where they keep their elephants,” Mr Manas explained.
Last weekTree Tops Elephant Reserve in Phuket and renowned UK artist Goldie launched an exclusive graffiti-inspired T-shirt to help raise funds to feed elephants during the COVID pandemic.
“By purchasing a Goldie T-shirt, Hoodie or Sweater, the money raised will go directly to buying the daily food supply for our seven elephants for the next six months (or more),” said a release from Tree Tops Elephant Reserve announcing the campaign.
All garments are ethically sourced and printed with vegan inks, the announcement added.
The fund-raising garments are being sold through Wild & Grey clothing, a clothing brand launched by Tree Tops Co-Founder, Louise Rogerson, who blended her career in fashion and love of elephants to raise funds to save elephants globally.
Tree Tops opened in October 2019 and is the first ethical elephant sanctuary in the south of Phuket, located in the hills of Chalong on the western side of the Klong Kratha reservoir.
“We closed in March and rely solely on tourism for our revenue,” said the announcement.
“We are urgently in need of funding to feed and care for our seven elephants: Nam Gaew, Fah Sai, Lam Poon, Boon Song, Tong Tip, Nam Sook, and Nam Phet. We are realistically looking at 2021 before tourists will return to Phuket and even then, we are unsure of visitor numbers. Therefore, we are planning a minimum of six months to one year to stay afloat,” it added.
Feeding the elephants costs just under B1,000 a day per elephant, Louise said, noting that a minimum of B200,000 a month is needed to feed the seven elephants.
In comparison, the Wild & Grey T-shirts cost £20 (about B813), Sweatshirts £26 (just over B1,000) and Hoodies cost £34 (about B1,380).
WORLD ELEPHANT DAY
The call for support to help elephants survive the economic crisis brought on by the COVID pandemic came as World Elephant Day was recognised around the globe Wednesday last week (Aug 12).
“Whilst we should be celebrating how incredible and magnificent elephants are, the sad reality during COVID is that many elephants and elephant camps are struggling financially in Phuket and throughout Thailand. The situation is very serious, particularly with the latest news that we won’t likely see tourists until 2021,” said Louise.
“World Elephant Day gives us a moment to think about every elephant both in Thailand and globally. Every elephant confined in a zoo, poached and killed for their ivory, forced to perform in a circus, every baby elephant taken from its mother. Humans are the only threat to elephants and it is devastating to see the global population declining.
“Our mission at Tree Tops is to educate our visitors about how magnificent elephants are and why they need to be protected,” Louise said.