Buffaloes 'tie the knot'

AYUTTHAYA - Two water buffaloes "tied the knot" on Monday in a ceremony that has more meaning than just their happiness.

  • Published: 11/02/2013 at 05:18 PM
  • Newspaper section: news

Chuwit Pitakpornpallop, a Pheu Thai Party MP for Udon Ratchathani, took Chiang Yuen, a 23-year-old male buffalo, from the northeastern province, to "wed" Thong Kwaw, which is 15 years younger, at Wat Pho Than in Sena district in an event witnessed by monks, villagers and the district chief.

An open field in front of the the temple was turned into a wedding site for the couple. Mr Chuwit led the traditional khan mak procession comprising klong yao performers and a band of woodwind instruments for the 700 kilogramme "groom", while 99,000 baht in cash was raised as the sinsod, or gift, to ask for marriage permission from the 600kg "bride's" owner, the Tambon Administration Organisation of Ban Pho.

Chiang Yuen, right, is married to his bride, Thong Kwaw, to save the declining popularity of the animals. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

The ceremony ended when district chief Rewat Amphawanont inked his signature on their "marriage certificate" amid wishes of happiness from participants. "It's [a new] one in my lifetime and I was excited about being part of the event," Mr Rewat said.

Mr Chuwit and Witthaya Buranasiri, an MP for Ayutthaya from the same party, said they decided to organise the ceremony to raise public awareness of the need to conserve locally bred buffaloes which face a bleak future.

"I hope the public will pay more attention to this issue. Buffaloes should be saved and be a part of farming in Thailand," Mr Witthaya said.

The number of buffaloes has almost halved from 2.29 million in 1997 to 1.23 million in 2011, the Livestock Development Department's latest figures say. The number is steadily declining as rice farmers turn their backs on buffaloes and buy machinery for their farms, leaving nothing for the animal to do.

Ubon Ratchathani has more buffalos than other provinces in the country with 38,395 and Ayutthaya has 780, the department says. Samut Songkhram does not have a single buffalo in the province, it adds.

According to district records, Sena was home to about 2,000 buffaloes two decades ago as they were a major part of the farming lifestyle. It now has only about 200 buffaloes as farmers prefer machines.

But there is a price to pay as "the use of farming machines has driven many farmers into debt because of higher costs", the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry has warned.

Mr Rewat said the figures could drop in the future and buffaloes could be consigned to history in the district unless efforts are made to bring the animal back to the rice fields.

"I'm afraid that there will be no buffaloes left in Sena if farmers continue to use machines for farming. Attempts must be made to raise awareness of this problem," the official said.

This concern was shared by the Buffalo Conservation and Development Centre in Chon Buri which said buffaloes were under-utilised as farmers preferred machines even though "buffaloes played a big part in building the country in the past".

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Writer: Sunthon Pongpao and Saritdet Marukatat

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