Since 26 May 1998, the 13th of March has been celebrated annually as Thailand’s National Elephant Day – or, Chang Thai Day.
As part of National Elephant Day, elephant camps and sites across the Kingdom will prepare feasts for the animals in order to say thank you, while raising awareness of their conservation plight across Thailand’s population and its many tourists.
Prime minister General Prayuth Chan-o-cha made a televised speech on Friday night to mark the occasion, reminding Thais that the elephant is a sacred beast that represents both Thailand as a whole, as well as its kings, according to Thai PBS.
Whereas in the past elephants served alongside warriors in battle, today they are one of Thailand’s most popular tourist attractions and help the country generate masses of tourism revenue.
The day is celebrated for three major reasons:
- To celebrate Thailand’s close relationship and shared heritage with elephants
- To show how important Thailand’s elephants are to the country’s culture
- To promote awareness about elephant conservation
Concerns about the welfare of elephants at tourist attractions, and the safety of the attractions themselves, are perennially raised by animal rights activists; the Tourism Services Development Bureau is currently undertaking a mission to help raise the standards of Thailand’s 150 elephant camps, in order to help boost tourist confidence.
Only eight of the 150 camps are reportedly up to the required standards at this point in time.
Elephants are also dwindling in number in Thailand: their population has reduced from 100,000 to just 2,000 to 3,000 in the wild, and 2,700 domesticated elephants, in the past 100 years. Climate change and habitat invasion are thought to be the primary reducing factors.
Progress has been made, however, and the current government have been commended for their efforts in the fight against the illegal ivory trade, with their work recognised by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
Happy National Elephant Day, Thailand!
Featured image is by Kawpodmd (Creative Commons)