Jumbo ‘buffet’ feasts mark National Elephant Day

Jumbo ‘buffet’ feasts mark National Elephant Day

Students and tourists feed elephants as a Chinese buffet is organised for the jumbos at the elephant kraal in Ayutthaya on National Elephant Day, which falls on March 13 annually. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)
Students and tourists feed elephants as a Chinese buffet is organised for the jumbos at the elephant kraal in Ayutthaya on National Elephant Day, which falls on March 13 annually. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

With wild elephants facing severe habitat destruction and loss of food resources, several provinces served up "buffets" of fresh fruit and vegetables for domesticated jumbos to mark National Elephant Day on Friday.

In the ancient capital of Ayutthaya, a Chinese-style buffet was arranged for 75 domesticated elephants at the Ayutthaya Elephant Palace and Royal Kraal on Friday.

The feast featured a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, including bananas, sugarcane, watermelons, pineapples and beans, laid on 35 tables.

Tourists, students and local residents flocked to the elephant kraal to participate in the activities to mark National Elephant Day. 

Ayutthaya governor Apichart Tordilokvej and Laithonglian Meephan, owner of the kraal, led mahouts, students, local residents and tourists to worship at the Pakam spirit house at the kraal. A merit-making ceremony was performed for the bones of dead elephants. (continued below)

During the event, the governor, Mr Laithonglian and Ms Jiraphan Pimpan, director of Jirasart Witthaya School, signed a memorandum of understanding to include Thai elephant studies in the school's syllabus under a pilot project.

Mr Laithonglian said efforts had been made to push for the registration of domestic elephants and passage of laws to control the possession of ivory. Now, the study of Thai elephants was being incorporated in the Jirasart Witthaya School curriculum.

In the northern province of Lampang,  a special Buddhist alms-giving event and a feast of fruit and vegetables were organised at the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre on Friday.

A total of 90 elephants, led by their mahouts, lined up to give alms to nine Buddhist monks who blessed them with sprinkled holy water.

Local residents and tourists also took part in the events. 

According to the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre, there are now about 2,700 domesticated elephants in the country, a sharp decline from about 100,000 in 1850. About  95% of the elephants are privately owned. The state elephant centre has 80 elephants, some are in zoos and 10 white elephants are under royal patronage.

Wild elephants in Thailand are very difficult to count given their dense, forested habitat, but experts estimate that there are 2,000-3,000 of them. They are in frequent conflict with farmers, raiding plantations as deforestation destroys their natural habitat and food supply.

In 1989 the government banned all logging in protected areas, closing all remaining natural forests. This put most elephants in the logging industry, the major employer, out of work. As there was a tourism boom at the time, many mahouts and their elephants turned to working in the tourism sector.


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