On Saturday, Thailand has conducted a fruit banquet for elephants in the ancient capital Ayutthaya, extending to an annual event that has been a big draw for foreign tourists in the hope they will return soon and improve the key tourism industry.
The festival is considered as the country’s Elephant Day, honoring elephants as a root of national pride and cultural identity for Thailand everywhere its history, used for labor, transport and in battlefield triumphs by warriors and kings.
“We, the elephant people, are hoping that the government will open up the country (soon) to welcome foreign tourists for them to bring in income so that we can pay for the elephant food and compensation for their handlers,” said Ittipan Kharwlamai, General Manager of the Royal Elephant Kraal and Village, an elephant camp, located north of Bangkok.
“We hope that tourists will help us and all 3,800 (domesticated) elephants to survive,” he said.
The country, which relies on tourism has yet to raise a travel ban inflicted last April to control the outbreak, making most foreign travellers and investors stay away.
Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy experienced its most difficult fall in over two decades last year when the number of foreign visitors plunged 83% from nearly 40 million in 2019.
Animals protecting groups have long been requesting for the elephant camps in Thailand to end animal shows and rides, branding the shows as a form of animal abuse.