'Jobless' elephants walk home

'Jobless' elephants walk home

Five 'unemployed' elephants and their owners begin walking from Pattaya to their native province of Surin, in tambon Nong Prue of Bang Lamung district, Chon Buri, yesterday. (Photo by Chaiyot Pupattanapong)
Five 'unemployed' elephants and their owners begin walking from Pattaya to their native province of Surin, in tambon Nong Prue of Bang Lamung district, Chon Buri, yesterday. (Photo by Chaiyot Pupattanapong)

CHON BURI: After waiting in vain for tourists to return to Pattaya for more than a year, five elephants and their owners are heading back to their home in the northeastern province of Surin -- a journey of some 500 kilometres -- on foot.

The elephants were accompanied by their owners' relatives, who drove pickup trucks in front and behind the elephants to protect the group as they travelled along a road beside the Map Prachan reservoir in tambon Nong Prue, Bang Lamung district yesterday.

Napalai Mai-ngam, 26, said she brought her relatives and their elephants from Surin to work at an elephant resort in tambon Lam Huay Yai about five years ago. Before the pandemic, they made 15,000 baht a month before tips, taking tourists on elephant rides.

When the Covid-19 pandemic began in January last year and tourism ground to a complete halt, their employer suspended their salaries as the Chinese tourists who made up the majority of their customers were unable to travel, she said.

With no immediate return of tourists in sight due to the continuing pandemic, the elephant owners finally gave up and decided to return to Surin to work as farmers.

The pachyderms would have to walk the entire 500-km-long route to Surin because the owners could not afford to hire big trucks to transport them. Ms Napalai said that it would take about two weeks for her group to get back home.

She said she and the group can only accept food and water for their elephants. They can be reached by phone at 093-3357062.



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