THAILAND


THAI ELEPHANTS

 

        Elephants are one of the most revered figures in Thai culture, and have deep spiritual meaning. They are referred to in Buddhist texts and have higher status in Thailand than any other animal.

ELEPHANTS 

    


     Elephants have worked on Thai farms and in the forests for thousands of years. They were the super weapon of early Asian armies. In 1900, there were perhaps 100,000 elephants owned in Thailand, but today there are fewer than 10,000. Current estimates of elephants in the wild number between 1,500 and 2,000.


     A working elephant has a career of about fifty years, after five years of training. Thai law has a mandatory retirement age for a working elephant of 61 years and the retirees must be returned to the wild where they live an average twenty more years.

Working Elephants


     Riding an elephant is the preferred mode of transportation through the rain forest. They are agile, capable of speeds just over 25 mph, and cause minimum damage to the forest and ground. Their large, soft feet distribute their weight so effectively that they exert less weight per square inch of foot than a deer.

   

                     Preferred Mode                                                 Steering the Steed View                                From the Top


          Most logging is now banned in Thailand putting many elephants, and their trainers (mahouts) out of work.

Retired Logger

     White elephants are especially revered in Thailand, and may only be owned by the king. Their importance derives from a 2,500-year-old tale. Queen Maya conceived the future Buddha after dreaming of a white elephant entering her womb. A white elephant centered the flag of Siam until 1917. By the way, the expression 'white elephant' for a useless object is thought to derive from the fact that only a king could own such an animal, and it was never allowed to work. White elephants are not truly albino, but tradition requires seven parts of their body to be near-white.

Royal Elephant


     Ellen has long had a close relationship with elephants (perhaps she has royal blood?). She has previously ridden elephants in Nepal and India and feels a close affection with the powerful and intelligent animals.

  

                              Introductions                                                       Conversation                              Don't Talk Politics with an El-ephant

  

                               Making Up                                                        Friends Again                                     Getting Back in the Swing Of It

El-ephant Beer and El-ephant Earrings

(03/04)

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