With monthly salaries for mahouts and free food for their elephants, a project to bring pachyderms roaming big-city streets back to Surin’s Tha Tum district has been greeted warmly by elephant owners who so far have registered 178 jumbos.
Many mahouts in Tha Tum and nearby areas on Wednesday were seen registering with the Khotcha-anajak or "Elephant Kingdom" programme at Pudin village in tambon Krapho.
The project, operated by the Zoological Park Organisation of Thailand, has set aside 25 million baht to improve the living conditions of 200 elephants and their mahouts.
Under the year-to-year project, participating mahouts will receive a monthly salary of 10,800 baht and their animals will be given food and veterinary care services.
The registration of elephants began early this month and lasts until Nov 30. As of Wednesday, a total of 178 jumbos had been signed up.
Mahouts flock to tambon Krapho in Surin's Tha Tum district to register their elephants to join a project to bring back pachyderms to their habitat in this northeastern province on Wednesday. (Photo by Nopparat Kingkaew)
Elephant Kingdom manager Wanchai Sawasu, urged mahouts to register their animals either in Krapho community, the country's largest elephant-breeding area, or at the organisation's booth at the annual Elephant Round-up in Surin.
The programme is open to elephants from all provinces, said Mr Wanchai. If the number of the jumbos exceeds 200, officials will accept all applications for consideration and submit the list to the ZPO for an additional budget allocation, he said.
He believed the project to bring elephants back to their natural habitat was on the right track for solving the chronic problem of elephants roaming streets in major cities and tourist areas.
Sunthorn Sonkhok, an elephant owner at Ta Khlang village, said the elephant-breeding community once had abundant natural resources. But their depletion caused food shortages for elephants prompting owners to take their animals to beg for food and money, said Mr Sunthorn.
Sunthorn Sonkhok, an elephant owner at Ta Khlang village in tambon Krapho, says many mahouts welcome the project. (Photo by Nopparat Kingkaew)
He welcomed the project as it helps both mahouts and their animals. The caretakers get salaries to support their families while the jumbos get food to eat. The project's headquarters also sports at crop-growing area.
Many mahouts are satisfied with the salaries and food, said Mr Sunthorn. In addition, participating mahouts are allowed to bring their elephants to attend activities or events in the province to earn extra money.
An elephant baby drinks milk from its mother as mahouts register their jumbos with the Chotcha-anajak or Elephant Kingdom project at Pudin village in tambon Krapho of Surin's Tha Tum district on Wednesday.