Elephants in Thailand face starvation as coronavirus knocks out tourism by nypost.com
They are the biggest victims of the coronavirus.
About 1,000 captive elephants in Thailand could be facing starvation as the global COVID-19 pandemic has all but wiped out the nation’s tourism industry — a large portion of the Asian country’s economy.
“If there is no support forthcoming to keep them safe, these elephants, some of whom are pregnant, will either starve to death or may be put on the streets to beg,” Lek Chailert, founder of the Save Elephant Foundation, told the BBC. “It’s a very bleak outlook unless some financial help is received immediately.”
The elephants in captivity in Thailand are largely maintained for tourists, the outlet said.
But they’re not cheap to keep. Pachyderms can eat more than 440 pounds of food a day, a tough task with no money coming in. The problem is compounded by the fact that Thailand is now in the midst of its dry season, making it harder to find food.
“Feeding elephants is a priority, but the issue is that there’s not enough forest left to feed them,” Kerri McCrae, manager of the Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary in northern Thailand, told the BBC.
McCrae said she now has to drive up to three hours a day to find enough sustenance for just five elephants in her care. And she said elephants, who swing their tails and flap their ears when they’re in a good mood, are now depressed.
Officials said they may also have to consider turning the elephants over to zoos or even to the logging industry for heavy labor, although the use of elephants for illicit logging has been outlawed since 1989.
“The worst-case scenario is that owners will have to choose between themselves and their elephants,” McCrae said. “The people here don’t have much, but they’re doing what it takes to keep the elephants alive for now.”
Thailand had 1,651 confirmed cases of coronavirus as of Monday.