Thai Elephants Are COVID-19’s Unlikely Victims

Northern Thailand’s elephant rescue sanctuaries are taking a big hit from the demise of the tourism industry.

By Veronica Inveen

Apr 20, 2020

HAPPY IMAGES OF WILD ANIMALS from around the globe have been circulating social media since humans have been staying indoors. However, there is one group of animals who are struggling more than ever during the time of the coronavirus: rescued elephants living in Thailand’s tourist-magnet camps and sanctuaries.

Of Thailand’s many tourism draws, being able to get close to the large pachyderms is arguably one of the most exciting. A visit to an elephant camp or sanctuary has become a Thailand right of passage for visitors from around the globe. However, as travel began to slow at the beginning of 2020, these camps began to see fewer tourists. Since March 26, Thailand has been under partial lockdown, meaning that elephant camps across the country have had to close their gates entirely.

Most of the animals at these centers have been rescued from cruel conditions and are physically frail or handicapped. They depend heavily on the support given by the sanctuaries, however, with the absence of income from visiting tourists, the centers are struggling to keep the elephants fed and pay for the veterinary care that so many of them need.

At Chiang Mai’s Elephant Nature Park, tourists can pay Bt 12,000 to stay at the camp for a week and take care of the elephants. According to the Bangkok Post, the foundation spends more than three million baht a month on food and healthcare for the animals, and salaries for their staff. 

The camp’s president Saengduen “Lek” Chailert, has called on farmers to send their farm waste—including bamboo strips and corn husks—so that the animals can stay fed. 

Additionally, you can purchase a “EleGiftCards” that will be discounted off future visits so that the camp can have some sort of income during these tough times. 

Visit Save Elephants Foundation website, Chailert‘s a non–profit organization dedicated to providing care and assistance to elephants across Asia to learn about other ways to support elephants around the region.


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