Whenever we think about Asian countries, what usually comes to mind are the iconic elephants in Thailand printed on shirts, pants, and other memorabilia. This is because, among all the other Asian countries, Thai people considered Asian elephants as the national symbol due to the major role it plays in the history and tourism of the place. In fact, you can find it as a major element in most of today’s provincial seals. Interested to know more about its history, significance, and current place in society? Read on below.
Thailand is considered one of the ultimate travel destinations globally, especially for tourists looking to be in one with wildlife. Aside from its bustling city life, exotic cuisine, and natural wonders, the country is the home of about 10% of the world’s animals since the whole country used to be made up of 90% forests. However, the country is battling environmental issues causing it to have a decline in wildlife populations.
One of the badly hit animals by this sudden shift is the Thai elephants(particularly the species of African and Asian elephants). In fact, there used to be 100k elephants in the country, according to the United Nations, but only a few thousand are left today (half of it are captive elephants). The saddening part is that there are reports wherein some of these Thai elephants are being captured from the wild and are domesticated through brutal practice in order to tame them and be submissive to humans. Due to this, there was a sudden rise in the number of project-based programs established to support and help the country with its tourism while staying ethical.
Interested in becoming a tourist and roaming the natural habitat/sanctuary of the elephants for a full day? Discover more about it in today’s post.
The History Of Elephants In Thailand
Elephants in Thailand are very much ingrained in the culture and industry of the country. The main reason behind this is because this tall and mighty animal has stood alongside the locals may it be for labor, tourism, (elephant riding) transportation, or tribal wars. Given their towering form and religious significance, elephants are viewed as sacred animals by the Buddhists and were even used as emblems for royalty. But perhaps you are wondering, what makes a Thai elephant more significant than other creatures in the kingdom? Here are a few reasons why:
- The elephants in Thailand are primarily used in warfare due to their massive size and amazing strength. Based on historical records, the people have been utilizing them since the 1500s and are dressing them up with armor. Also, they prove to play a significant role in winning battles against the Khmer, Malay, and Burmese.
- Given that a single step of an elephant is much bigger than what we can do as humans, the natives ride them and mainly uses them for transportation between Chiang Mai and Chiang Saen. Elephant riding is still present today, but it is mainly for the tourism industry, so the trails are shorter than traditional.
- Thailand’s elephants are also used for agricultural work in northern Thailand, where they became part of everyday plowing and the illegal logging industry.
- Famous Thai kings are also allowed to become owners of several white elephants (also known as pink elephants, ช้างเผือก, or chang phueak) since this is known as a sign of royalty and power. In fact, it was even used in today’s naval flag.
- When technological developments replaced the manual labor of these animals, mahouts, and private elephant owners made money through elephant tourism. This has become very popular, and travel companies are offering steep prices for face-to-face interaction with these creatures per day. The usual offer gives the visitors a chance to see elephants in action, feed them, touch them, and take pictures. There are also instances where riding elephants are allowed.
- Since Asian elephants are known as endangered species, local authorities established an elephant camp where rescued elephants and wild elephants are placed and cared for.
Cultural Significance Of Elephants In Thailand
Given the undeniable importance of elephants in Thailand, the locals are making an effort to make sure that the national symbol is alive and branded accordingly. They have made sure to teach mahouts the ethical principles of raising, taming, and taking care of the elephants. Also, the country has welcomed tons of foundations and campaigns related to preserving the legacy and life of the existing wild elephants in the country.
Elephant Nature Park
If you are planning to help boost elephant tourism without supporting the abuse of wildlife, an elephant sanctuary has been created, and this is one of the top places for you to visit. These places are where the elephants in Thailand are saved, fed nutritious food, rehabilitated, and allowed to be free in the jungle. Depending on where you will visit, you can also be a volunteer and learn from an actual mahout.
One of the top centers is the Elephant Nature Park, located at 1 Ratmakka Road, Phra Sing, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand. This is usually open every day from 7 am to 5 pm to give you a long time to experience a thrilling adventure with real Thai elephants. What makes this interesting is that they did their best to ensure that the area closely resembles the actual wild habitat, so you can be sure that the place is very freeing for these creatures. Most of the elephants here are saved from cruelty which is why you can expect some that are blind, recovering from a wound, or those with mental disorders.
Other Ethical Elephant Sanctuaries In Thailand
- Maesa Elephant Camp
- Chiang Dao Elephant Camp
- Thai Elephant Conservation Center
- Ayutthaya Elephant Camp
- Wang Chang Ayutthaya
- Nong Nooch Tropical Garden Pattaya
- Samui Elephant Sanctuary
As you reach this part of the post, we hope that we were able to give you the most comprehensive information about why Thailand puts a premium on its range of elephants. If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out the following related posts like the Thai currency, weather, and proverbs.
Want To Know More About Thailand’s Culture And Language?
While Bangkok and Phuket can indeed be excellent places to visit, nothing beats the amazing forest area where the elephants in Thailand are. Want to know more about the country’s rich history, traditions, and language? Learn more using the Ling app and find your learning preference!
This language learning tool allows you to get the most out of your travel and connect authentically with the locals. Given that it is FREE to download on any mobile device, you can take your learning on the go. Discover Thai and over 60+ foreign languages that you won’t ever get tired of. And what’s the best thing about this app? It is easy to download on the Play Store or App Store! Give Ling app a try now!