As wild elephant numbers increase, authorities warn of conflicts with farmers

national March 14, 2017 01:00

By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
THE NATION

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MORE EFFORTS are being taken to encourage a harmonious relationship between wild elephants and people living in forest areas, as wild elephant numbers have increased by up to 10 per cent and threaten to intensify conflicts with farmers.



On Thai Elephant Day yesterday, National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department (DNP) deputy director-general Adisorn Noochdumrong said the number of wild elephants in Thailand was rising at a rate of between 7 and 10 per cent.

Adisorn said areas that had seen a steep increase in the wild elephant population were the western forest in the Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary and eastern forest in the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai forest complex. In the eastern forest, the number of wild |elephants has been rising by up to 10 per cent.

“This is the outstanding outcome of our efforts to protect the |forest ecosystem and preserve the wild elephants, since we have worked on reintroducing wild elephants into the forest and building food sources for elephants,” Adisorn said.

However, the increased number of wild elephants means more competition over limited food sources in the forest and could mean wild elephants will invade farmland near the forest looking for food and coming into conflict with farmers.

Adisorn said that to address the problem, the department was taking measures to create more food sources for elephants and also working with local people to protect the elephants. 

“We are now working with the Groundwater Resources Department to develop new water sources for wild animals including elephants in the forest, as many forests experience water scarcity this dry season. 

“We also plant more food sources for elephants in the forest in order to prevent them from going outside their territory in search for food in people’s farmland,” he said.

He said the DNP was also working with people around the forest to educate them on protecting their farmland by using harmless |control methods and encouraging them not to harm elephants.

“We have tried a new method to chase away the elephants that invade people’s farmland by raising honey bees on the fences between forest and farmland, and it has proven to be very effective. When the elephants try to cross the fence, the bees will attack them and they will learn not to disturb the bees again,” he said.

“This way the local people can also get the extra benefit by |harvesting honey for an additional income.”

DNA tests restarted

Meanwhile, regarding the operation to identify the DNA of all domesticated elephants, the head of the DNP’s Phraya Suea |(“Tiger King”) unit Chaiwat Limlikhitaksorn said the DNA examination process would start over the beginning again at the request of |elephant owners.

“We want to make the process transparent to all stakeholders, so we will comply with this demand and set up a central committee to oversee the DNA testing process. The testing is due to finish within the next two months,” Chaiwat said

He added that the department would have to examine the DNA of 3,700 domesticated elephants and cross-check with the Provincial Administration Department database to find unlawfully registered elephants in line with the National Council for Peace and Order’s order.

“We want to make it clear that all domesticated elephants are legally registered and they are well treated by their owners. Elephants are our national symbol and we have to take good care of them,” he said.

WildAid yesterday announced that it had joined with 15 prominent Thai business leaders in a pledge to never use elephant ivory or other wildlife products, and urged stronger enforcement and more effective wildlife conservation action.

“As business leaders, I think we can lead by example to help raise awareness about this critical issue in Thailand. We can help reduce demand for ivory and demonstrate the Thai public’s strong commitment to protecting elephants and the environment, because when the buying stops, the killing can too,” said William Heinecke, |chairman and CEO of the Minor International Plc.

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