In January readers of the Bangkok Post “Postbag” may have noticed a letter from Eric Bahrt, who often writes about issues related to cruelty to animals and people e.g. dogs and Palestinians.
His letter was in praise of the Elephant Nature Park along the Mae Tamin a half hour drive north from Chiang Mai city.
Yesterday I was in the area so called in to ENP where two years ago I had sent trees for their revegetation program.
There I heard a few words from Khun Lek, the proprietor about the actions of officers from the Ministry of Natural Resources & Environment seeking to confiscate ENP elephants. (Click on the link to see details)
As the panorama above shows, Elephant nature Park is not situated on some narrow strip of land between the road and the river, where the animals are chained , but on a wide expanse of flood plain where the elephants roam free.
Places like this are called Monkey Cheeks in Thaliand, as they can store large volumes of water during floods, and thereby reduce the speed of potentially damaging flows and lessen damage done down stream. HM King Bhumipol is a long time advocate for the preservation of such natural assets.
However, despite their protestations of loyalty to the King, people in the previous Democrat led government had a different agenda. Since early 2010 there has been a systematic reforming of natural streams all over Thailand into channels with steep sided embankments which prevent the beneficial flooding of areas like that at ENP.
Here is another aspect of the siege ENP is suffering, as a new embankment like in these pictures taken just upstream of ENP is presently under construction.
Already this has brought tragedy causing the death of a mahout employed at the park, according to Khun Lek.
In the near future the twice daily elephant bathing, so health giving in a hot climate, may become a thing of the past. The danger posed by these large animals and human carers trying to descend the unstable and steep slope, may be too great for this practice to continue.