Urgent appeal for elephants at risk of starvation in tourism downturn
We have launched an urgent appeal to help elephants sadly facing starvation and a lack of basic medicine, as the COVID-19 pandemic leads to a tourism downturn.
In some areas of Thailand, tourism has already come to a complete standstill with 85 elephant camps in northern Thailand closing their doors and laying off 5,000 staff. The remaining camps are desperately struggling to look after their elephants.
Rampant breeding of elephants for commercial use has led to a situation where vital resources are lacking to maintain the approximately 2,500 elephants in these camps. Keepers (or mahouts) are struggling to afford food for their elephants - resigned to gathering weeds and fodder to feed them. There is now a high-risk that elephants will starve, or their owners might feel pressure to use them for logging (hard labour) or in for begging.
To compound the situation, it is Thailand’s hottest, driest period of the year and in some areas the forest's supply of natural foliage is completely depleted. Without incoming funds to source supplementary food, elephants are unable to graze and forage adequately.
Appeal will provide food and medicine
While government aid initiatives are not yet decided, World Animal Protection’s appeal aims to provide struggling elephant venues with food, supplements, medicine and venue running costs.
Caring for an elephant first and foremost means providing large amounts of food daily. They require about 10% of their body weight in food every day - that’s up to 400kg of grass, leaves, fruits and vegetables that need to be paid for and transported. Some elephants also require supplements. Without immediate help, these captive elephants are sadly at risk of malnutrition and starvation.
Elephants should be in the wild
Audrey Mealia, Global Head of Wildlife at World Animal Protection said:
“These elephants are already victims of a wildlife trade that separates them from their mothers and families at a very young age - destined for a life of suffering. Now they are facing starvation and a lack of basic medicine.
“As the world shuts down due to COVID-19 and the tourism industry dries up, it’s wild animals that should never have been in captivity in the first place that will suffer. They are being left neglected and starving. Elephants and other wild animals trapped in the tourist entertainment industry haven’t chosen to live in cruel captivity.
“These are challenging times, but our work to protect wild animals never stops. Wild animals should not be the forgotten victims of this pandemic.”
Now is the time for the tourism industry to take responsibility and clean up its act to end the exploitation of wild animals forever. Travel companies can help avert future crises by making this the last generation of captive wild animals used for entertainment.