50 elephants ‘addicted to sugarcane’ destroy 2000 rai of crops in Thailand

A herd of around 50 wild elephants has migrated into farmland in Loei province in northeast Thailand, destroying 2000 rai of crops so far. There is no sign of them retreating into the forest.

Recently, around 50 elephants migrated into agricultural land in the Phra Kradueng district from the Phu Luang Wildlife Sanctuary.

No wonder the elephants moved away from their home given the goodies on offer – the herd has worked their way through entire fields of sugarcane, bamboo, bananas, and cassava and even chomped on rubber trees.

So far, an area of 2000 rai has been destroyed, severely impacting farmers’ livelihoods. The herd have shown no signs of retreating and farmers have not attempted to harvest any crops out of fear.

Phra Kradueng District Chief Phuriwat Chotinparat said that a team of people have been assembled to try and figure out how to drive the herd back to the wildlife sanctuary.

Chief Phuriwat said…

“As for the affected villagers, we try to understand that the elephants are addicted to the taste of food – especially bananas and sugarcane.

“Normally, elephants do not live in deciduous dipterocarp forests like this. This is the first time ever that wild elephants have ever come to live in the Phu Kho Phu Kratae forest.

“Between 4-6pm every day, the elephants come out to find food. They don’t eat until it’s gone, but graze and move along, causing damage to a large area.”

The village chief said farmers had been advised to salvage any sugarcane they can before everything is ruined. But some farmers are rightfully too scared to venture into their fields.

Chief Phuriwat said he is desperately trying to find ways for elephants and villagers to live in harmony.

He said it’s not the fact that the forest isn’t abundant enough for the elephants – but they just can’t help themselves to fields of sugarcane. He says the elephants are “addicted” to sugarcane.

Farmers might have to adjust their choice of crops for the area to become a “sugarcane-free zone” to rid the area of temptation.

Wild elephants and villagers in remote areas of Thailand are not getting along that well in recent times.

Last month, a 71 year old woman was in her garden watering her eucalyptus plants when she looked up to lock eyes with a wild elephant. The elephant stamped on her, and she miraculously survived with minor injuries.

In September, an elephant with no respect for the law smashed its way into a home in Prachin Buri province and helped itself to some fermented fish and other food items before fleeing into the jungle.

In November a wild elephant was electrocuted to death by an electric fence put up by a farmer to protect his jackfruit plants.

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Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.