Tourism has been hit hard by the pandemic. Travel is kept to essentials and essentials nowadays are limited to basic needs and appropriate physical distance from other people. In Thailand, where tourism used to account for 20-percent of the country's gross domestic product, the rates have plummented to depressing lows.
Elephant attractions, one of the country's foremost tourism activities, have been suffering from the impact. Thailand is home to several elephant parks and from thousands of visitors a day, they'd be lucky to have five. The practice of riding elephants, which has been fought by animal activitists for decades, is a two-fold issue. Captive elephants can no longer cope and compete with wild elephants. "They cannot look for food in the forest because they are used to being fed,” told Borpit Chailert to the New York Times. “Imagine if we released around 3,000 domesticated elephants into the forest at the same time. There would be no food to feed all the elephants.”
However, the restrictions enforced by COVID-19 have pushed elephant operators to rethink their strategies. One park director Anchalee Kalampichit has already unburdened her elephants of the heavy benches on their backs and are currently roaming free on the grounds.
According to her, this would be the first time in 44 years that the elephants would not have to carry the chairs.
Kalampichit's park is currently closed, but she has already stated that when it reopens, she plans to shift focus from offering rides and showing trick to educating tourists on elephants.
Kalampichit only has 78 elephants, which is a small fraction of domesticated elephants in Thailand, but it's a start.
* This story originally appeared on Esquiremag.ph. Minor edits have been made by the Preview.ph editors.
For more stories on COVID-19, please click here.