Saturday, June 24, 2006

A concrete jungle for the elephants

One thing that has always distressed me is to see elephants roaming the streets of the cities here in Thailand. They're not made for the city. Their feet must hurt after rambling for hours on the hard pavements. And the Bangkok's pollution must really wreck their lungs. While I can appreciate the dilemma the mahouts have in providing for their charges, surely there is another way. Having them begging / performing on city streets is so deeming...

Even the elephant camps around Chiang Mai have these magnificent animals performing silly tricks for the gawking tourists.

It's just a circus by another name. These grand and majestic animals deserve something better. I reckon life in an Australian zoo would be much better than wandering the city streets day in and day out.

It's tough in the concrete jungle - World -

OLE, a two-year-old Thai elephant, stands side-on to traffic in the middle of a four-lane street in central Bangkok, trunk swinging erratically as buses, taxis and motorbikes whiz past on either flank. For eight hours each night he walks through choking fumes, stopping only when a customer, Thai or tourist, buys a 20 baht (60 cent) bag of sugarcane to feed him and snap a photo. For the next few months, this will be his life.

The most passionate of Thailand's elephant activists, who successfully blocked the recent attempt to export eight animals to Australia, don't want to see even one elephant leave the country, but life for a domesticated elephant at home is less than perfect.

Last week Ole and seven other elephants were trucked to the capital from the Elephant Village, in Surin province, near the Cambodian border, where drought meant there was little to eat for the animals. They now spend their days on a leg chain in a desolate stretch of land under a tangle of freeways in the Bang Kapi district.

Each night they do a 10-kilometre circuit with two mahouts through the city's business and restaurant districts. It is illegal to parade the elephants through the city but police turn a blind eye.

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