Elephant welfare concerns deepen as Thai camps run out of money

Thailand’s tourist elephants face crisis.


Elephant tourism camps in Thailand have been forced to close as the coronavirus outbreak brings tourism to a standstill.


The animals who have been subjected to years of exploitation, carrying tourists on their backs using heavy wooden and metal seats strapped to their backs, are now facing a different type of suffering.


Although the lack of tourism has allowed the elephants to roam freely on the park grounds for the first time in decades, the camps can no longer afford to feed them.


An adult captive elephant needs 300 kilograms of food a day to survive –  a cost camp owners simply cannot afford anymore.


Campaigners warn that many elephants will either starve or be sold to the illegal logging trade, breaking a 30-year-old law banning the use of elephants to transport wood.


Footage sent to AFP from a camp in Chiang Mai shows lines of elephants tethered by a foot to wooden poles, some visibly distressed, rocking their heads back and forth.


Local animal welfare groups are using the crisis to influence change in operations and animal care that will improve standards and offer more elephant-friendly activities.


Chinese visitors, who make up the majority of Thailand’s 40 million annual tourists, plunged to unprecedented levels in February.


The following month, travel restrictions into Thailand extended to Western countries.