By Prasit Tarnsirisin
PHUKET: Does Phuket have too many elephants?
That's the question now being asked by authorities after a raid uncovered three illegal elephants on Phuket amid suspicions that smuggling of the giant creatures is still going on.
There's also a backlash now taking place among some tourists who are aware of the cruel treatment meted out to young elephants during training.
Mike Baker, chief executive of an organisation named World Animal Protection, said: ''What we need to do is alert people to the wildlife suffering in this industry.
''We don't want that once in a lifetime experience to be a lifetime of misery for the animal,'' he told The Guardian.
On Phuket, it is believed that crafty smugglers may still be falsifying documents to add more elephants to Phuket's already large herd.
Phuket Livestock Office Director Weerasit Puthipairoj went to Phuket Provincial Hall earlier this week to talk urgently to Vice Governor Somkiet Sangkaosutthirak about his suspicions.
''There's no need for more elephants on Phuket,'' Khun Weerasit told Phuketwan later.
''The island already has almost as many elephants as Surin province, which is described as being the home of elephants.''
He wants to establish a special Phuket provincial law that would limit the number of elephants. There are now officially 216 elephants on Phuket, give or take the ones that may have been smuggled onto the island illegally.
The illegal elephants discovered in this week's raid will be sent to Surin province.
Campaigns overseas by anti-cruelty activists may eventually reduce the number or tourists who want to take elephant rides.