By Nattha Thepbamrung
PHUKET: Phuket has the highest number of working elephants of all the provinces in Thailand, a meeting of the Elephant Committee, chaired by Vice-Governor Panlop Singhasanee, was told on Friday (April 3).
The committee was set up to keep an eye on local livestock agents, especially in light of complaints sent in by NGOs.
“Phuket has the highest number of elephants in Thailand, with 216 registered with the Livestock Office. We need to work out the correct measures to handle them all,” said V/Gov Panlop.
Taveesak Sawasdivej, an official with the Muang District Livestock, said that he had led a team to check three places that were accused of abusing elephants, but had found no evidence of this.
“First we went to Phu Thai elephant camp following a report that a two-year-old baby elephant, Pinky, was tied up with chain that had caused a wound in her flesh, and that the food was rotten.
“But when we checked we could find no wound on Pinky, nor any rotten food. The camp representative said the baby elephant is tied up only when her mahout goes to the toilet.
“Another baby elephant, Nadya, at the second place we visited, Marina Phuket Resort, works at night time but only for two hours,” he said, pinting out that this was not an offence.
“A complaint had also been received about ATV Sea View, alleging that blind elephants were being used for hard work. We found two old elephants there, Pang Kanom, 40 and Pang Saonoi, 65, who are bleary-eyed.
“But they only carry tourists on short-distance walks. Otherwise they stay in the pond waiting for visitors to bathe them,” he explained.
“This month, we will survey every elephant camp and places that are reported to have elephants working. There will be an annual health check that will include checks on their microchips and the licenses.”
He said that a big problem for Phuket elephants now is the shortage of land on Phuket for elephant camps, with some camps occupying land illegally.
“The Sea View Elephant Camp in Rawai, on the road to Kata, has been closed by the Phuket Agricultural Land Reform Office because it was using SorPorKor land [degraded forest earmarked for farming only by poor people\ for the wrong purposes [for tourism\.
“We are considering new regulations to protect and support a better quality of life for elephants.”