Thursday, January 13, 2011

Off the Streets, at Least for Now

Here is a good news story, the source is from an anonymous interview with

Day before yesterday, there was a statement from the Chiang Mai councilor, who said  that
over 20 elephants and their mahouts (handlers) have been forced out of the city by the police.

It was reported that on December 28th most of the mahouts in Chiang Mai were rounded up and taken to Mae Ping police station. During a 7 hour meeting, they were told they were breaking the law as well as harming the elephants and causing road safety hazards, and given 2 days to leave or be arrested, fined heavily and possibly jailed. Almost all the mahouts complied and organized trucks to move their animals, most returning to their home province of Surin where the Governor has a program to pay them to stay.

Twenty-four hours later, only 2 elephants were still being paraded around tourist areas, mahouts begging for money to feed them. (Some mahouts have been 'earning' up to 8,000b per night and using mobile
phones between them to avoid police).  The source said that after a police 'reminder', the last 2 also left
hastily for Surin, where they claim the Governor's grant is not enough for them and their animals to live on.

Chiang Mai's clean up comes some months after a similar, successful operation in Bangkok, and when MyChiangMai questioned business operators in the Night Bazaar and Thapae Gate areas, all agreed that
no elephant begging teams had been since since New Year's Eve.

The “clean-up” comes only weeks after a mahout appeared in court accused of attacking a young Australian couple with his metal hook after they complained of his treatment of an elephant. On the
same day, Save Elephant Foundation director Sangduen 'Lek' Chailert and supporters presented a petition of over 100,000 signatures to the provincial Governor, protesting elephant begging. See
The Elephants Voice Magazine On Line

Surin is a province with incredible food shortages and more domestic elephants than it can really support.  The Governor of Surin does have a program which pays the elephant owners to keep their elephants at home.  This program is admirable and I’m sure represents their best effort.  Sadly, the mahouts who have told interviewers that the government stipend is insufficient are largely correct.  These people are accustomed to a much higher income from begging than they receive from staying at home.  The income question plus the lack of food for the elephants beg to ask just how long will it be before the elephants return? 
Be it in Chiang Mia or elsewhere, If you do happen to see an elephant on the streets, report it to the police and to the Save Elephant Foundation.  Do not give money to the “mahouts” and do not confront them.  Some of them have proven themselves to be a vicious cowards who will attack from behind.

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