It was a privilege to take photographs at the Friends of The Asian Elephant Foundation in Lampang. I have attended talks and meetings with some of the leading authorities on the plight of the Asian elephants.
If you come to Thailand as tourist, you will discover that amazing scenery and beautiful elephants are an incredible combination. If you have a chance to be in contact with elephants here, I recommend you visit only an ethical camp or organization.
Logging Was Banned in 1989
Since logging was outlawed in 1989 the only legal way an elephant owner can make money to support his family and his workers is through tourism.
There are approximately 3,400 elephants in captivity in the whole of Thailand with a large concentration in the North of the Kingdom. A similar amount of elephants remain in the wild and can be found in various national parks around the kingdom. The areas are not large enough to sustain all the captive elephants were they to be released. Human Elephant Conflict is a real issue.
Human Elephant Conflict
If you are a farmer the last thing you want is for wild elephants to be invading your land and decimating your crops. Without large and extremely strong walls, they are an effective way of making sure the elephants do not wonder off and cause havoc and it stops them from coming to harm. There are perhaps around 2,000 Chiang Mai elephants in camps.
A fully grown elephant eats approximately 250kg of food each and every day! That is 10% of the bodyweight so, a fully grown elephant weighs around 2,500kg. The running cost of 1 elephant including food, veterinary expenses and staff costs run to around $18,000. per year.