Unemployed elephants walk 500 kilometres from Pattaya to Surin

PHOTO: Elephants walking down the road because their car is in the shop.

A group of 5 elephants and their owners began the long walk today from Pattaya to Surin after giving up on the return of tourism anytime soon. The 500 kilometre journey has to be done on foot as they couldn’t afford to hire trucks large enough to carry each elephant.

After waiting a year for the Chinese tourists that make up a majority of their customer base to return, the families decided to embark on the long journey with the 5 elephants to their home in the northeastern province of Surin. As they walk they’re protected on both sides by pickup trucks to keep them safe from cars.

5 years ago Napalai Mai-ngam came with her relatives to work in an elephant resort in Tambon Lam Huay Yai of Bang Lamung near Pattaya with their 5 elephants. They told the Bangkok Post that their earned a good living, about 75,000 baht (15,000 per elephant) plus tips from the tourists to ride elephants on nature trails, each month.

But with the borders closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic the tourists from China who usually flocked to elephant activities, were stuck back in China and Napalai’s boss had to cut their pay. Even with vaccinations finally underway, tourists in numbers, enough to sustain activities like elephant camps, may not be back anytime soon. The families finally had to surrender to the reality and start the long walk home.

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They avoid the blistering Thai sun by walking early mornings while the weather was still cool, and hope the roadways out of Pattaya would provide snacking opportunities for the elephants to graze. They expect the journey to take about 2 weeks. The families have turned down offers of cash donations for fear that their long walk will be viewed as a publicity stunt.

That said, the families have expressed gratitude to the locals in towns they pass who have donated drinking water, food and fruit to the entourage of people and elephants. If you would like to donate resources you can contact them on phone number 093 335 7062.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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