Dept plans jumbo 'food paradise'
The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation is proposing to buy land from farmers and develop it into a "food paradise" for wild elephants to stop crops being ravaged.
The eastern forest complex would be the pilot project.
Songtham Suksawang, director of the project, said the increasing number of wild elephants in the eastern forest complex has forced them out of the forest to invade agricultural zones in search of food. In many cases this has led to deadly encounters between hungry elephants and angry locals with guns.
He said the department will discuss the issue with companies that benefit from the forest, since all use water coming from the eastern forest complex to support their operations in the industrial estates located in the eastern part of the country.
“We will talk to East Water Group [which sells water to industrial estates] and other giant companies to join in creating a fund, from which we can draw money to buy land from locals to plant food for wild elephants,” he said.
He said the fund would show appreciation to nature and give something back to the ecological system. The department is eyeing more than 1,300 rai linking Khao Ang Rue Nai Wildlife Sanctuary and Khao Chamao-Khao Wong National Park, now occupied by locals, as the elephant "food paradise".
The eastern forest complex consists of Khao Ang Rue Nai Wildlife Sanctuary, Khao Soi Dao Wildlife Sanctuary, Khao Chamao-Khao Wong National Park, Khao Khitchakut and Khao Sip Ha Chan, covering more than 1.3 million rai in five provinces — Chachoengsao, Sa Kaeo, Chantaburi, Rayong and Chon Buri. Before 1961, lowland forests, the natural habitat of wild elephants, covered over 16 million rai but most of this has been turned into agricultural zones.
Only 1.3 million rai is left for around 380 wild elephants, which have increased in number from 150 in 1998. It is estimated the wild elephant population has risen by 5% a year there.
Mr Songtham was confident the 1,300 rai will become a tourist attraction for people to come and see wild elephants.
He said this would make income for people living nearby, similar to what has been done at Kuiburi National Park in Prachuap Khiri Khan where wild elephant and gaur safaris are popular among tourists.
Gen Surat Worarak, secretary of the Five Provinces Bordering Forest Preservation Foundation, suggested the department come up with clear plans to deal with elephant-human encounters.