Walk-A-Tif: Elephant Village Pattaya

For Thais, the elephant is a symbolic animal, but this important mammal is in danger as their numbers have reduced dramatically, from 100,000 to only around 2,700, in the past 170 years.

Today, Walk-A-Tif will take you to find out more about the elephants at the Elephant Village Pattaya. They are part of Thailand’s tourism industry, which has been badly affected by travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pattaya Elephant Village is an elephant rescue and rehabilitation center in Chonburi province. It was founded in 1973 as a sanctuary for former working elephants. These elephants, due to injury or sickness, can no longer be used for heavy work in the jungles and, because of their diminishing habitat, it is now impossible to return them to the wild.

As an elephant has to eat 140 to 270 kg of food and drink up to 200 litres of water a day, the Elephant Village is struggling to take care of their residents during the pandemic.

Purimprud Chaiyakham, Managing Director, Pattaya Elephant Village, said “We cannot let them live in the wild as they are not wild elephants. They could be attacked by wild elephants. We have raised them since they were young. So we have to fight for them during the COVID-19 as they are always eating.”

“My dad’s duty is to take care of both the elephants and their mahouts, because we believe that being a mahout is a job which requires sacrifices. Not many people take up this job, as they have to look-after the elephant all day. I can say that we have been suffering (from economic problems). When COVID-19 struck, from 10 to 20 visitors per day, and especially busy at the end of 2019, by February and March, there was not a single tourist here. So we started to advertise to Thai people and some of them came to support us, but still not many. So what I could do was sell bananas on Facebook live, as I have a number of followers. All of the bananas were fed to elephants immediately after the audience bought them and they saw the moment I fed the elephants.”She added.

Another reason this center sees fewer visitors is because of a feeling among some people that this kind of elephant sanctuary is an act of animal abuse, as some see the mahouts use hooks and chains with elephants.

Purimprud reveal that “A big animal, like an elephant, is only afraid of the hook. It’s what we use to teach them to be well-behaved. As you can see, their skin, I can say that they won’t bleed. We never cut them with the hook. Don’t be worried, we love them and this elephant is worth more than 10 million Baht. Same as the chain, which many people misunderstand, especially foreigners. We understand that they are worried about the elephants, but we want them to hear our explanation. We have to use chains to look-after the elephants. We have to use very strong chains, because elephants can break them easily. We use chains to tell them to stay on the spot for a while but, if we leave the chains on all night, they can break them easily. Elephants are very strong, no chains can hold them for the whole night.”

There are many ethical elephant sanctuaries in Thailand, these types of facility are something Purimprud believes should receive more support from the public. She said that they hardly earn anything from running such a place, because of the expense.

Purimprud also asks everyone to support elephant sanctuaries which focus on the elephants’ wellbeing, because they have enormous expenses. It’s not easy to take care of them, and don’t be afraid that they are going to profit from elephants, because they hardly earn anything.

You can come to support and appreciate these adorable elephants every day from 10am to 7pm, at Elephant Village Pattaya, and I hope that both humans and animals will survive the economic problems caused by COVID-19.

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