These days, it's hard to find an aspect of life that hasn't been impacted by the Coronavirus. And while much of the media attention has focused on humanity's trials and triumphs over the disease, animals were also faced with the consequences. Here's everything you need to know about how Thailand's elephants have struggled through the pandemic, and who's trying to save them.
National Geographic reported that nearly 4,000 elephants were living in zoos and sanctuaries across the country. They were once a lucrative tourist attraction, with hoards of people flocking to feed, ride, and pet the creatures. But with little to no tourism, the owners and caretakers of the thousands of elephants were left with no income to care for them. Countless organizations stepped up to try and help. One charity, Elephants' Home & Nature, turned to Facebook to help the effort. "Our expenses in keeping these innocent lives are endlessly heavy," the post outlined. They went on to ask for aid in the form of food, medical supplies, and cash. According to the organization, the elephants required 16-20 hours of eating daily, something they were struggling to provide.
Edwin Wiek, the founder of Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, has also tried to do his part. Among the 850 animals under his care, nearly 30 of them were elephants. "Every time a donation comes in, we are celebrating," the activist said. And even in the face of hardship, his doors remained open, having since taken in six more elephants.
Thailand, like a lot of Southeast Asian countries, depended a great deal on tourism for the national economy. In fact, prior to the pandemic, Bloomberg reported that the industry accounted for 20% of the overall GDP. And with international travel ground to a halt, the country was brought to its knees financially. In the same report, it was stated that the Tourism Authority of Thailand estimated it would take at least five years to recover from the losses experienced since 2020. But many were hopeful that when regular travel returned, a more sustainable form of tourism would flourish.
The current situation for Thailand's elephants is no small feat to overcome, but with the care of the generous organizations and their supporters, there is a glimmer of hope for these gentle giants.