Finding ways for farmers and elephants to live together

Wild elephants love fruits and crops near the mountains have been one of their favorite places to check out. Farmers have raised concerns over their plantations, so a lawmaker in eastern Thailand is promoting a set of measures called the ‘Chanthaburi Model,’ where communities and large animals in the areas are finding ways to coexist.

“The elephants would come down from the mountains and eat fruit along with the plants that take five years to bear it,” said Jaruk Srion, a lawmaker from a small political party representing Chanthaburi in the Parliament. The province is in the lower northeast near the border with Cambodia and still has lush forests aside from farmland.

“There are around 120 wild elephants in Chanthaburi. Three districts are handling the elephants raiding plantations,” Jaruk said.

Chanthaburi is not the only province with perennial problems involving farmers and elephants. It is a particularly disturbing dilemma considering that the elephant is Thailand’s national symbol and once adorned its flag. Most people, Thais and foreigners, love elephants.

In Chanthaburi, people are taking a different approach. Farmers, villagers and officials have collaborated to construct fences and moats to separate the forests from villagers’ plantations. Roads have been built parallel to the waterways so they can be inspected, maintained and not fall into disrepair.

Another solution is the use of semi-natural corridors in the forest to guide the elephants to three or four local reservoirs without passing through plantations.

“We call all of these efforts the ‘Chanthaburi Model,’ which I believe will be 100 percent effective,” Jaruk said. Officials also plan to build elephant watchtowers so tourists can visit the area and observe the elephants with minimal disturbance to herds and their habitat.

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