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Rampaging Phuket elephant whereabouts unclear

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Rampaging Phuket elephant whereabouts unclear | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: The whereabouts and future plans for Captain, the bull elephant that went on a rampage on September 12 sending a Ukrainian honeymooner to hospital with two broken legs, remain unclear amid dubious claims by the owners of Camp Chang Kalim.

In response to claims that Captain was the same elephant involved in a previous rampage in January 2010 that sent tourists running for their lives and a Swedish man to hospital with a broken leg, Camp Chang Kalim owner Witthaya “Ja” Thawiros said that it was a different bull.

“The ‘Captain’ we have now is registered as ‘Phamorn’ and is not the same as the other Captain, who was sent back to Yala [province] – where he’s from – following the incident when he was in musth [a period of heightened sexual excitement] during a trekking trip,” Mr Witthaya told the Phuket Gazette.

Musth is a period of heightened sexual excitement in bull elephants, characterized by highly aggressive behavior and coinciding with a surge in testosterone levels.

Mr Witthaya also said that the “current” Captain was sent off the island on Monday morning to Phang Nga province, where he is now working “dragging logs”.

“We got a lot of complaints about Captain through the media, so he hasn’t worked trekking since that day [September 12],” Mr Witthaya said.

However, Phuket Livestock Office veterinarian Chirayu Nirunwoj yesterday confirmed to the Gazette that his office has no record of any elephant called Captain being transferred off Phuket – neither after the 2010 incident nor the most recent.

“Normally, when animals are moved off the island, the Livestock Office must be informed, and we will issue paperwork to be presented at the checkpoint leaving the island. But, I have not heard anything from the camp about moving Captain out of Phuket,” Mr Chirayu said.

When presented with Mr Chirayu’s statement, camp owner Mr Witthaya responded: “As it was urgent, we did not inform the Livestock Office.”

Mr Chirayu said the only information his office has on Captain was that he was registered in 2009, had passed gas frequently on May 24, 2009, was in musth around the end of January 2010 (when the first rampage occurred), and was given anthelmintics (anti-parasitic drugs) in April 2010.

The records also show that Captain is 22 years old, weighs 3.5 tons and has never been transferred out of Phuket since registration.

Mr Chirayu said his office was not informed, however, that Captain’s bout with musth in January 2010 led to a rampage in which a tourist was seriously injured.

He pointed out that Captain’s latest rampage was likely not due to musth.

“It may have been that Captain does not like Pancake [the elephant the Ukrainians were riding] and he tusked her. It wasn’t related to musth – elephants are social animals, so there is a possibility they simply don’t like each other,” he said.

Mr Witthaya has a different version of events:

“Actually, I already explained to the Ukrainian couple [on Friday evening] that it was an accident,” Mr Witthaya said.

“While they were riding Pancake – who was about 10 meters ahead of Captain – a monitor lizard ran past Captain’s hind feet and scared him. Elephants are naturally afraid of snakes and lizards.

“This spooked Captain and he ran away, hitting Pancake in the front and causing her to fall with the couple sitting on her back. Pancake was trying to get up, but Captain probably thought she would hit him back so he kept tusking her. The Ukranian woman could not take off the safety belt made from rope, so the mahout and staff brought knives to cut it loose,” Mr Witthaya added.

Artem Perepelitsyn and Tetiana Meia, the Ukrainian victims, say that Captain charged and tusked Pancake three times before she fell – and continued to tusk her for “about two minutes”.

Asked if they were satisfied with Mr Witthaya’s version of the story, Mr Perepelitsyn responded with a defiant “No”.

“How can they claim that Captain was scared by a lizard? If they are using this elephant to trek in the jungle every day, I don’t think he’d be scared – he would be used to it,” Mr Perepelitsyn said.

He also pointed out the Captain charged three times before knocking Pancake over – he didn’t just “bump into her” while running scared, as the Camp owner claims.

Mr Chirayu of the Livestock Office echoed the sentiment: “I wasn’t there, but I’m curious about why Captain would have kept tusking Pancake. If it’s true that Captain panicked when the monitor ran past him, he would not have intended to tusk Pancake like that.”

Camp Chang Kalim agreed to pay the 300,000-baht hospital bill for the couple and an extra 100,000 baht on top.

Mr Witthaya added that the company’s insurance policy covered all but 40,000 baht of the hospital bill, which he paid out-of-pocket.

“It’s not enough, but it’s better than nothing,” Mrs Meia said as the newlyweds readied for their flight home on Monday.

She pointed out that she will need extensive physical therapy, will miss at least two months of work, and will need to have the titanium plates in her legs removed at some point in the future. The extra 100,000 baht will not be enough, she said.

Camp Chang, although contradicted by Phuket officials, claims that they are left with six elephants after Captain’s alleged departure on Monday.

“Normally Captain was a nice elephant and many people liked him,” Mr Witthaya said.

“He was often hired to serve for [Buddhist monk] ordination ceremonies and weddings – that day was an accident. Now we’ll have to find an elephant to replace him,” he said.

Pancake is now recovering from “serious wounds to her stomach” at the elephant hospital in Klong Thom, Krabi province, Mr Chirayu said.

“She’s young – in her 20s – so it probably won’t take long for her to get well,” he said.

There are five hotels that have “small” elephants registered to them and about 20 elephant camps on Phuket, with a total of 189 registered elephants on the island, Mr Chirayu said.

Elephants can often be seen at tourist locations across Thailand.

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Tourism

Thai-Chinese Chamber of Commerce to propose Guangzhou-Phuket tourism route

Caitlin Ashworth

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Thai-Chinese Chamber of Commerce to propose Guangzhou-Phuket tourism route | The Thaiger
PHOTO: 77 kaoded

A tourism route from Guangzhou, China to Phuket could help the island province recover from the recession brought on by the pandemic and lack of foreign travel, according to the Thai-Chinese Chamber of Commerce. The president of the organisation, Narongsak Puttapornmongkol, says they plan to submit a letter proposing the route under a travel bubble scheme to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration.

The Thai-Chinese Chamber of Commerce is proposing a travel bubble with around 20 cities in China with no recent coronavirus infections and considered to be at a low risk of spreading the virus. Travellers from Guangzhou recently entered Thailand on the new Special Tourist Visa. It was the second flight of international tourists since travel restrictions were imposed in late-March.

“We believe that the Travel Bubble and the quarantine reduction will resolve the tourism business, which is a huge economic opportunity to recover.”

Once a vaccine is widely available, Narongsak suggests that those who wish to Thailand could also present their vaccination certificate or examination reports from the place of origin. He adds that the mandatory state quarantine period is likely to be reduced.

SOURCE: Pattaya News

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Phuket officials concerned about virus risk from undocumented migrant workers

Maya Taylor

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Phuket officials concerned about virus risk from undocumented migrant workers | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Wikimedia

The discovery that 3 Thai nationals infected with Covid-19 returned from Myanmar and bypassed health checks and quarantine, has officials in Phuket on high alert. Over the weekend, it was discovered that a 29 year old Thai woman had illegally crossed from Myanmar and subsequently tested positive for Covid-19 after admitting herself to a Chiang Mai hospital. 2 other women who worked with her have also tested positive for the virus.

Phuket’s deputy governor, Pichet Panapong, says news of the 3 infected Thai women who managed to enter Thailand without undergoing any health checks or mandatory quarantine, has officials on the southern island worried. He adds that local authorities are monitoring Burmese workers, calling on them to follow disease control measures if returning to Phuket from Myanmar. (It would appear he missed the bit about the 3 infected women being Thai, not Burmese)

In a report in the Bangkok Post, Pichet says officials are considering setting up a quarantine facility for any migrant workers already in Phuket illegally, adding that of the 59,900 registered migrant workers on the island, 80% are Burmese. The Thailand/Myanmar border is longer than 2,000 kilometres with hundreds of official and “natural” border crossings.

“People can also act as eyes and ears for the authorities. If they find something suspicious in their communities, they should alert immigration police or local police.”

Phuket has 21 alternative quarantine properties, offering over 2,500 rooms in total, but arrival numbers are low. It’s understood that only 11 people have applied to enter Phuket in the period December 4 – 12, and so far, only a single application has been received for January. There are currently 726 people in local quarantine, 20 in alternative local quarantine, and 4 people carrying out yacht quarantine. Since Phuket agreed to receive foreign-registered yachts, 6 vessels have entered its waters, with all passengers and crew carrying out quarantine on board, 6 kilometres from shore.

Pichet says that, at a meeting of the communicable disease control committee, the Thai Yachting Business Association submitted a proposal to manage cruise ships, and officials have also received a request to extend the opening hours of shopping malls over the New Year holiday.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Re-opening Thailand to tourism will be vaccine dependent

Bill Barnett

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Re-opening Thailand to tourism will be vaccine dependent | The Thaiger

Bill Barnett from c9hotelworks.com continues to follow the difficult journey of the Thai hospitality industry. Traditionally, now would be the start of the country’s highly profitable high season for the tourism industry. But not this year. Thai hotels find themselves in the middle of an existential crisis – either still closed, only partly open, or one of the few converted to limited ASQ traffic. The situation is dire, when you consider that between 15-20% of Thailand’s GDP is linked to tourism.

In a speech this week Thailand’s Prime Minster Prayut Chan-o-cha spoke clearly that only when a vaccine is approved, produced, and implemented, would the country open to substantial tourism. Given the current timelines and forecasts, this may not be likely until mid-2021 at the earliest, though subject to advancement if the process could be accelerated, which is unlikely.

For tourism and hotel stakeholders, the writing is on the wall that 2021, for the most part, will see a continued reliance on domestic travellers, and only in 2022 will there be a large-scale return in numbers of overseas visitors.

Given the winter spike in Asia, Europe, and North America of Covid-19, Thailand is not alone in relying on the vaccine to return tourism but the process will not be instant and the re-openings of borders will most certainly be staged.

HERE’s a list of 113 Alternative State Quarantine hotels.

The business reality for Phuket and across Thailand is to plan for the worst in the coming six months and only expect 2022 to see a notable uptick.

Currently, the hotel sector continues to advocate to the Thai government and Central Bank for debt and financing relief measures and assistance in a social security supplement to retain staff.

While it’s negative news, it at least allows for hotels to understand the challenges ahead, plan and adjust their operating models going forward. ‘Survive the downturn’ is the new mantra.

No vaccine, no entry. Read more HERE.

No vaccine, no flight. Read more HERE.

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