Thailand creates action plan to protect elephants

To mark National Elephant Day, Thai authorities unveiled a ten-year action plan to better protect the Kingdom’s beloved pachyderms. As with many wild animals, elephants sometimes wander into farmers’ fields and eat crops leading to conflicts that the plan aims to prevent.

According to the Human and Elephant Voices Network, between 3,084 and 3,500 elephants still roam wild in Thailand’s forests. The Kingdom has 189 protected wildlife areas and 69 of them have elephants living in them.

Thais love elephants. The pachyderm is a national symbol and once adorned the Kingdom’s flag when it was known as Siam.

Nonetheless, development has steadily invaded areas that are occasionally habitats for the wild elephants causing them to sometimes “invade” farmers’ fields and feast on their crops, which from time to time led to conflicts between people and elephants, and other wild animals.

The action plan created by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Conservation (DNP) aims to provide more plentiful food and water resources for elephants living in protected forest zones so that they will not range into farming areas. It also will provide education to local communities to create a better understanding of elephants and strategies they can adopt should the animals enter their farms.

“We have found that the problem is in certain areas where the number of elephants is higher than the amount of resources the forest can provide,” said Supagit Vinitpornsawan, Director of a research center for wild elephants in DNP protected areas. “So, we need to have unique plans to deal with unique problems in different zones.”

As part of the plan, the Department is considering relocating some groups of elephants from areas where the environment may not have enough resources to sustain them, to other protected areas where elephant populations are lower.

Saengtien Krasaeto, an assistant to the village’s Chief of a forest-dwelling community said that “We have never used aggression and violence to get rid of elephants. What we do is set fire in our fields or turn on the radio at night, as light and sound makes elephants know that there are people nearby.  Elephants can recognize human voices and will not move near people,” she said.

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