After waiting in vain for tourists near Pattaya for more than a year, five elephants and their owners are heading back to their northeastern home province of Surin – a 500km journey, on foot.
Members of five extended families were walking with their five elephants, with a pickup truck protecting the group in the front and the back, along the road beside the Map Prachan reservoir in tambon Nong Prue of Bang Lamung district.
Before the COVID-19 crisis, it would be hard to imagine the province without tourists. Their absence came as a blow to Thailand’s tourism sector, which greatly relies on international visitors.
Located in Chiang Mai, the non-profit organisation provides care and assistance to captive elephants in Thailand has helped more than 1,500 elephants nationwide with food.
To help the animals, the Save Elephant Foundation has launched a project to help mahouts grow food. It has called on landowners in various provinces across Thailand to lease empty plots of land to elephant owners at a cheap price.
At the same time, it is also working with ethnic Karen communities in northern Thailand to rebuild their natural environment, transforming deforested areas into sustainable farms and paving the way for ecotourism operations.
In a remote Karen village in Mae Chaem, jobless elephants and their mahouts received a warm welcome. The villagers had prepared various kinds of fruits for the animals and sang local songs to mark the special occasion. Some old people wept when they saw the elephants they know return from work at tourist camps for the first time in decades.
According to Channel News Asia