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Elephants In Bangkok


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I keep seeing the same two or possibly three elephants being led around central Bangkok with their owners asking people to pay money to feed them a very small portion of what looks like sugar cane. I was just wondering, what's the deal with them? I always flatly refuse to give the guys cash because, to me, an elephant in Bangkok is just about as out of place as you can get, and it just seems like a huge begging prop to me.

But does anyone know more about them? Are they just money making devices, or are they elephants that work sometimes and these guys are just trying to raise a bit of extra cash for their upkeep?

And does anyone know where they're kept and under what kind of conditions?

Just curious that's all. If there's a legitimate reason for their presence in Bangkok I may donate the odd 20 Baht or so next time I see them rather than avoiding the money collectors as I do now.

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I see it (them?) two or three times a week, usually near Ratchathewi BTS station, up Petchaburi Road, that kind of area. Saw an elephant walking past through the window of a pub on Sukkumvit recently too, so they get about a bit.

I agree it's a sad sight, and pretty easy to do something about if they really are illegal - it's not like you can hide an elephant under your floorboards.

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Some years ago, elephants were banned working doing logging. This resulted in an explosion of elephants in Bangkok because one of the few ways the owners knew how to make money is get tourists to feed them. Then a law was passed to ban them from Bangkok and any seen making their way towards Bangkok turned back or bought from the owner at a nominal fee. The ban on elephants working in the forests is a real shame. Elephants are excellently suited to the work because they can cross any terrain and go up steep hills. The modern way you need to build roads first, then bring in the machinery. This is a lot more inefficient, environmentally invasive, and polluting. But the elephants were abused, overworked, and fed drugs to work harder which led to their demise. For me, the small feeling of seeing the majestic creatures in Bangkok is overcome by the realiziation they are in a sad state and belong back in the forests. I have been impressed even Thai people pity them and refuse to feed them in hopes they go back.

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The large scale illegal logging that employed all these trained elephants has ceased but the elephants did not just vanish. The keepers have long sought to bring them to tourist and even non tourist places in Bangkok and elsewhere and use the food sales to keep themselves and the animal alive now that they have no regular employment. So you have the law which says no and the feelings of police and normal people that what else can they do. Then you have crackdowns and periods of live and let live.

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So, for the sake of elephants is it better that I pay to feed them or should I absolutely not feed them? I mean they must be pretty desparate to bring it all the way from the upcountry on foot for 20 Baht a piece of banana knowing they risk arrest and their elephants seized by the authority. Wasn't there a hotline to report the authority when you spot an elephant on the street?

I saw one elephant in front of Emporium last Saturday and a small one in front of all the pubs in soi Sarasin, opposite Lumpini Park.

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I have been impressed even Thai people pity them and refuse to feed them in hopes they go back.

Funny you should say that, because the only people I've seen feeding them has been Thai people. That's still a very rare occurrence though: 2 nights ago an elephant turned up at the street restaurant I was eating at and a table of Thais bought a couple of bags of food, and I've seen Thai people buying food in places outside of Bangkok, in Kanchanaburi for example, when a Thai family bought a bag of food for each of their kids to give to the elephant. I haven't seen these elephants turn up somewhere crowded with tourists yet though, maybe it would be a different story then.

But from what you're saying, lopburi3, it sounds as though we'd actually be doing a good service by contributing to these elephants. If you're stuck with an elephant in Bangkok, what can you do? I doubt if these animals would be fit to be let back into the wild anyway (although I could be wrong there).

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If caught, elephants will be confiscated to become government property and sent to rehabilitation center or the sanctuary according to the Bangkok Post article I read years ago. I don't think domesticated elephants will be brought back to the wild. But I have only once seen an elephant and a mahout actually caught and about to be taken away by the authority in front of Pantip Plaza a few years ago. Bangkok Post said BMA lack the manpower to handle the situation, and perhaps the means of removing elephants from the congested city center.

Edited by Nordlys
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I'm afraid it's all a scam. You buy an elephant for 350,000 baht. Hire the mahout for 5000 baht per month and then split the profits with him. The elephant takes the fruit ( a hand of bananas is 5 baht outsideBangkok, a stick of sugar cane about 10 satang ) waves it around happily and 50 metres further on hands it back to the mahout. Elephants are revered animals in Thailand and bangkok residents only see them rarely, thus the interest they generate. These animals are being exploited when they are brought into Bangkok. Enjoy and admire them, when you see them, but please don't pay to "feed" them.

regards

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You'll see them all over BKK (Illegally) .. yes mostly in tourist areas... Do feed them if you get the chance .. (note they eat all that they are fed.) I haven't seen the BIG ones in awhile but I still see the 2-4 year olds wandering around. Not since the problem they had at the World AIDS conference a year ago at least.

Is it a scam? Kinda ... Would it be best if they were kept up-country in a natural environment .. sure! Couldn't that be said about lots of things that come down from upcountry that we pay for the upkeep on?

Are we worried about the legality? lol .. not at all!

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You'll see them all over BKK (Illegally) .. yes mostly in tourist areas... Do feed them if you get the chance .. (note they eat all that they are fed.) I haven't seen the BIG ones in awhile but I still see the 2-4 year olds wandering around. Not since the problem they had at the World AIDS conference a year ago at least.

Well, I'm not sure if you're making even the slightest dent in the elephant's hunger by buying these tiny portions of food the guys have. I'm pretty sure they will be getting a proper, elephant sized meal when they're back at their home. The bags of sugar cane, jackfruit, etc. are just a token gesture, and a way to give the owners an excuse to interact with the public so they appear to be getting something for their 20 Baht.

And what was the problem at the AIDS conference?

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I live about 400 km from Bangkok in the central region near Mae Wong national park and a couple of biggish elephants went by on the other side of the road.

Its only the second time I have seen them up here and my 19 month old son enjoyed seeing them. The mahouts did not stop and ask for anything at all even though it is obvious I am a farang.

The elephants were actually walking on the side of the road which is being rebuilt so it was soil and not concrete/tarmac they were on.

I hope we see them again as I want my wife to get them to come over here for my son though she is a bit scared of them.

It is supposed to be very lucky to walk under an elephant but there was a story (how true I am not sure) that a pregnant lady was going under one when either fire crackers or a dog scared the elephant and it hurt the lady.

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