The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has launched an initiative to help the kingdom’s elephants to thrive while tourist travel is still restricted. The “Help Community, Help Elephant, Help Nation” project has instigated a collaboration between all governmental organisations in Thailand related to elephants, before setting in motion a public and private sector effort that is directing assistance both to the elephant camps themselves and the communities that grow crops for the elephants. So far, the project helped over 1,450 privately-own elephants nationwide.
“Elephants are a symbol of Thailand and are a part of our national identity,” said Pichaya Saisaengchan, Director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand for Dubai and the Middle East. “Just as many sectors have felt the negative impacts of the pandemic, so to have elephant camps who depend on the kingdom’s thriving tourism industry as their main source of income. We are therefore grateful for the support and contributions of the community who have come together to ensure that the welfare of these majestic animals during these difficult times.”
Various private elephant welfare organisations are also involved in the initiative, including The Thai Elephant Alliance Association; an organisation that has actively helped elephant camps and domesticated elephants around the kingdom. Its efforts include the launch of a donation channel from which funds are used to buy food and medicine, as well as funding veterinarian team to check on the health of elephants who have returned to their homes.
Chiang Mai’s Elephant Nature Park is offering virtual tours via a streaming platform, LazLive, through which its elephants can be viewed in real time. The initiative helps the wellbeing of the elephants and supports local communities. Additionally, the tours promote the Drink Coffee, Save Elephants campaign in which the profits from the sales of the locally grown ENP Coffee go towards the activities of the Save Elephant Foundation.
In the Southern region of Thailand, the UK-registered charity Southern Thailand Elephant Foundation (STEF) supplies food for elephants and has been dispatching laden trucks throughout the Southern region. Their appeal has raised over 270,000 Thai Baht in donations with the money going towards providing assistance to Thailand’s elephants.
A number of the country’s elephant camps come under government agencies; such as, the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre in Lampang, which was founded in 1993 under Royal Patronage. Together with educational institutes for veterinary science, a mobile elephant ambulance unit with a veterinary team is arranged to provide free treatment for sick elephants in remote areas throughout Thailand. Next door is Lampang’s famous Elephant Hospital whose mission it is to care for sick elephants free of charge, whether from camps or individual owners.
Hospitality establishments are also playing their part to drive awareness through elephant encounters for visitors. Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle and Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp and Resort organise experiences that allow travellers to connect with the elephants and learn about their lives, as they socialise with the gentle giants in their natural habitat.
Whilst travel is restricted to Thailand, the kingdom is looking to open its borders in strategic phases. UAE travellers can book return flights to Bangkok with Emirates Airlines starting at USD748, followed by an internal flight to Chiang Rai with Thai Airways starting at TBH2,700 (USD88). Once in Chiang Rai, visitors looking to experience elephants in their natural habitat can choose between Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle (rates starting at USD1,620 per night for a Superior Tent) and Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp and Resort (rates starting at USD775 per night for a Deluxe Three Country View Room).