The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation is considering restricting the hours vehicles are allowed to enter Khao Yai National Park in Nakhon Ratchasima to avoid new confrontations between cars and elephants.
Closing the roads when elephants tend to cross them was among the preliminary measures offered Tuesday by Thanya Netithammakul, department deputy director-general, to prevent a repeat of recent attacks by wild elephants against park visitors.
There have already been at least four elephant attacks in the park this year, park director Kanchit Srinoppawan said on Monday.
The traffic on the roads was intense because of people travelling during the holidays, Mr Thanya said. Because of the congestion, wild elephants couldn't cross the roads with as much ease as usual, causing them stress.
Currently, vehicles are allowed on the roads at all hours. In the future, visitors may be allowed to drive on roads only when the animals don't typically cross them, Mr Thanya said.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, meanwhile, said he has always stressed the importance of keeping the elephants safe.
Department staff had told him the number of wild elephants has been increasing recently.
He said he has instructed the department to clearly identify road crossings favoured by elephants and to deploy park staff to monitor them.
The park distributes a pamphlet to visitors explaining what they should do if they find themselves face to face with a wild elephant.
Many simply don't read it, Gen Prayut said.
Although they are advised not to honk their car horns, some park visitors intentionally honk them to catch the animals' attention and lure them out of the forest, he said. At other times animals cross the road in search of food.
Mr Kanchit also said Tuesday some tour guides block elephants from crossing the roads, to please their tourist customers. He has asked park staff to talk them out of the habit.
Soraida Sawala, secretary-general of Friends of the Asian Elephant, said elephants are not violent by nature, and their aggression must have been prompted by visitors irritating them.
If the elephants wanted to be violent, they could have speared the cars with their tusks and turned them upside down.
"They must have been annoyed by the sounds of the cars and the honking horns. Elephants can hear a sound from a long distance," she said.
This year, the number of people visiting Khao Yai appears to be higher than in previous years, said Ms Soraida.
Aside from limiting the times cars will be allowed to enter the park, authorities should place curbs on the number of vehicles allowed to pass through at one time, she said.
She called on policy-makers to base their decisions mainly on the welfare of the elephants when deciding on any new steps. Photos.