Elephant in Thailand dies after tourists feed it wrong food

An elephant camp in Koh Chang, eastern Thailand, is warning tourists not to feed elephants food containing chemicals after an elephant died after eating chemically-contaminated bananas.

A few weeks ago, a 20 year old male elephant at Kaebai Meechai Elephant Camp in Koh Chang, Trat province, fell ill with flatulence and indigestion after eating food brought in by some tourists, according to the elephant’s mahout (trainer) Chaisawan “Nueng” Phisin.

When the elephant fell in, Nueng found the offending food to be market-bought bananas treated with ethylene gas.

A veterinarian was called in from the Elephant Hospital in Lampang province. The poorly animal underwent an endoscopy, X-rays, and several treatments. However, his condition worsened until he passed away on Saturday.

At fresh markets and stores, fruit is often placed in containers with ethylene gas which allows it to ripen on its own. However, the chemical can be fatal for elephants.

The camp asks for tourists’ cooperation to be careful that any food they bring is not treated with chemicals, which they believe tourists will understand. It is just a matter of education.

The owner of the camp, Sakchai Khanrakul, said that this elephant was 20 years old and was raised at the camp for all of its life. He was never sick before, said Sakchai…

“The fallen elephant, 20 years old, lived here since birth. We loved him and had a strong connection. We looked after him very well, he was very happy, and his favourite food was sugarcane and bananas. He always ate his favourite foods first.

“The animal was worth four to five million baht. There is a group that wants to buy his carcass for 100,000 baht, but it is not for sale. We will bury his body today.”

The Director of Phattana Animal Hospital in Lampang, Phakphong Sangwiset, said he would like to educate tourists that elephants like to eat leaves, grass, sugarcane, and bananas and can occasionally eat watermelon, cucumbers, and other fruits as a treat.

However, the fruit must be clean and not treated with chemicals.

In the wild, Asian elephants have an average lifespan of about 60 years, although some live into their 70s. In captive settings, such as camps, zoos, and wildlife parks, the species have been known to live to a similar age with proper care and nutrition.

Last week, an elderly Thai woman miraculously survived being trampled on by a wild elephant that wandered out of a nature reserve and into her garden in Prachin Buri province in eastern Thailand.

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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.