Tourist-Fed Elephants Low on Food As Pandemic Closes Site

Feeding time for elephants at Ayutthaya Elephant Palace & Royal Kraal on April 2, 2020.

BANGKOK — Over 70 elephants at a tourist attraction in Ayutthaya province are at the risk of starvation after the venue is forced to close down during the coronavirus pandemic, organizers said Thursday.

Ittiphan Chaolamai, manager of Ayutthaya Elephant Palace & Royal Kraal said the elephants will soon run out of food since there are no more tourists to buy food and feed them. The shutdown also affects other tourist landmarks that rely on commercializing animals and a wildlife sanctuary.

Ittiphan said each beast at the site needs 500 baht worth of food to eat each day. This means the operator has to spend 40,000 to 50,000 baht per day on food and other expenditures while there is no income.

Despite the closure, the company is still paying the mahouts their full salaries, said Ittiphan.

He said the firm will seek a 5-million-baht loan to save the business, grow more grass to feed the animals, and let the elephants search for natural food in nearby areas.

Another site caught in the shutdown is a wildlife sanctuary in Phetchaburi province where about 25 rescued elephants roam freely.

The founder of Wildlife Friends Foundation for Thailand, which runs the refuge, said money is running out and urged the government to help.

“I think the government should do something to help. The Thai government made a lot of money out of tourism,” Edwin Wiek said, proposing a 200 to 300 baht assistance per elephant per day for a period of three months.

Wiek’s animal sanctuary, which also looks after 700 other creatures including chimpanzees, gibbons and orangutans, has been closed for two weeks now. He expected the site to open for visits again by June at the earliest.

Over ten thousand fish at an Aquarium in Chiang Mai are also facing a similar predicament.

Chiang Mai Zoo Aquarium, a major tourist draw in the province, is running low on cash, according to the organizers. The commercial zoo shut its doors on March 19 without any definite reopening date due to fears of the coronavirus.

Zoo operators said the upkeep for over ten thousand fish kept in the aquarium is around 3 million baht per month.