BANGKOK — Undisturbed by humans, wildlife is making a comeback to national parks across the country, which remain shut due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Photos released by Khao Yai National Park show a serow laying on top of a rock near Pa Deo Dai, which literally translates to “lonely cliff” in Thai. The scenic point overlooking the vast woodland used to be crammed with tourists prior to the epidemic.
“The situation is getting better, animals are thriving all over the place,” the park’s chief Narin Pinsakul said. “We have seen elephants, serows, hornbills, and even tigers. Nature has been healing considerably over the past months.”
But it’s not all good news. While wild animals live in what could be a respite from crowds of tourists, conservationists warn that the same outbreak could pose a risk to other animals, especially domesticated ones.
“While it seems to be a heaven for wild elephants, it’s a nightmare for domesticated elephants,” Sangduen Chailert, founder of Save Elephant Foundation said.
All national parks have been closed since March 25 following the announcement of a nationwide state of emergency due to threats of the coronavirus epidemic.
The rare sights of animals frolicking in their habits have surfaced since. Herds of elephants bathe in a lake, others roam man-made roads. A deer enjoys a tranquil moment in front of what used to be a visitor lodge. Birds, such as great hornbills and oriental pied hornbills, glide freely in the sky.
Similar scenes were witnessed in other parts of the country, including Kaeng Krachan National Park in Phetchaburi province, where a herd of gaurs was seen feeding on grass and a dusky leaf monkey hangs on to a branch.
The sea is no exception. Mu Koh Chang National Park in Trat province saw a stunning sight of deserted, pristine beaches. Bottlenose dolphins were also spotted at Mu Ko Similan National Park in Phang Nga province down the south.
But despite what appears to be nature’s rejuvenation, conservationists fear for the wellbeing of domesticated animals, especially elephants.
Thousands of such beasts are starving because their owners are unable to purchase them food, Sangduen from Save the Elephants said.
She said many elephants held in camps and sanctuaries across the country are on the verge of being sold or let go after a sharp drop in tourism.
Her foundation managed to gather a sum of donations from individuals and organizations, but she said it could only feed 1,500 elephants for five days.
“Elephants eat as much as 300 kilograms of grass and drink 200 liters of water per day,” Sangduen said. “We can only support each elephant 5,000 baht a month, everyone knows that the amount usually feeds them for five days, but we have to stretch it to a month.”
She continued, “Like humans, elephants are being laid off too. But unlike humans, they are probably the last thing that the government will take care off.”