Connect with us

Northern Thailand

Massive elephant migration causes problems in the North

Jack Burton



PHOTO: Hurriyet News

The Covid-19 crisis has shuttered elephant camps across Thailand’s North and Northeast, most of which relied primarily on tourist revenue. Now around 1,000 elephants, threatened by starvation, have journeyed through the hills of northern Thailand, making a slow migration to their homes.

For many of the animals, home is the village of Huay Pakoot in Chiang Mai province, where generations of ethnic Karen elephant handlers have been rearing the giant mammals for 400 years. But it is around the tourist hub in Chiang Mai City, 180 kilometres away, that mahouts and their elephants work, performing for foreigners in amusement parks or “elephant sanctuaries”.

Some of the camps allegedly employed abusive methods to “break” and train the elephants, who earned their keep entertaining busloads of tourists. But as the pandemic paralysed global travel and closed many of the parks in mid-March, some 3,000 of these elephants have been unemployed. Many, at risk of starvation, have been brought home.

35 year old Chaiyaporn, a mahout of 15 years told AFP that the elephants seemed happy to be home.

“They are tired but rather happy. They have a very good memory. It seems that after years of absence they know they are finally coming home.”

About 1,000 elephants and their mahouts have returned to their villages in the past 2 months, according to the president of the Thai Elephant Alliance Association.

“Such a big migration over such a short period of time is unprecedented in this country.”

But the homecoming is not without problems. Huay Pakoot usually has fewer than 10 elephants: now more than 90 are living alongside 400 villagers. The forests surrounding the village have been cleared to grow corn, and there’s nothing to support the needs of such a large herd. Although some sleep behind homes, most of them stay in the forest at night, watched over by their mahouts. But sometimes they escape and roam around farm property, risking harm from people defending their crops.

Conflicts between territorial elephants have also already been reported, with at least 2 injured in a fight. And for mahouts who made the long journey home to avoid starvation themselves, finding up to 300 kilograms of plants for each elephant, their average daily diet, is a challenge, to say the least.

Buying sufficient feed instead can cost around 500 baht daily ($15), acccording to 19 year old mahout Jirayu, out of reach for many mahouts.

“More grass, bananas, and sugarcane” crops will have to be planted if the outbreak goes on much longer.”

There is also concern that desperate mahouts might turn to the illegal logging industry, which operates around the Thai-Myanmar border.



Get more from The Thaiger

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS
👋 Have your say on our Thailand forums
🔔 Subscribe to our daily email newsletter
📺 Subscribe / Join YouTube for daily shows
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🐦 FOLLOW us on Twitter
📷 FOLLOW us on Instagram


Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Severin michel

    Friday, June 12, 2020 at 12:50 pm

    Always good articles from Jack

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Best of3 hours ago

Top 5 Wine Bars in Bangkok with Delivery

Best of3 hours ago

The Best Bakeries in Bangkok with Delivery

Coronavirus (Covid-19)4 hours ago

More Pattaya people arrested drinking alcohol, violating Covid measures

Welcome back to Thailand!

Thaiger is getting behind local businesses for the restart of tourism in Thailand - up to 50% discounts across all advertising packages!

Best of4 hours ago

5 of the most appealing Phang Nga hotels

Phuket5 hours ago

“Phuket Sandbox” still on, provincial restrictions set after uptick in Covid-19

Thailand5 hours ago

Thailand News Today | Boss indictment, Pattaya arrests, bubble burst | July 27

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Best of6 hours ago

Top 5 bars in Pattaya

Thailand6 hours ago

UPDATE: Dying Samut Prakan mother tells daughters to go to orphanage

Best of6 hours ago

Top 5 Thai restaurants in Krabi

Drugs6 hours ago

Hong Kong officials seize 61 kilograms of heroin shipped from Bangkok

Best of6 hours ago

Koh Pha Ngan’s 5 best resorts

North East7 hours ago

Couple “drops off” Covid infected 80 year old father at Korat temple, drive off

Coronavirus (Covid-19)7 hours ago

Phuket officials add new layers of restrictions, Central closed for 7 days

Thailand8 hours ago

Korat construction camp closed following Covid outbreak

Coronavirus (Covid-19)9 hours ago

Tuesday Covid Update: 14,150 new cases; provincial totals

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism5 months ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism5 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism5 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Southern floods, Face mask fines, Thai Air Asia woes | January 8