The warning comes after at least 11 people were killed in elephant attacks in recent years.
Wildlife Conservation Office director Tuanjai Nujdamrong has cited a survey by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation of 68 conserved forests nationwide – including 38 national parks such as Kaeng Krachan in Phetchaburi, Khao Chamao in Rayong, Kui Buri in Prachuap Khiri Khan and 30 wildlife sanctuaries – that have up to 3,500 elephants.
These beasts were at greater risk of encounters with humans who disturb their hunting grounds and habitat, while their sources of food and drinking water have shrunk, she said. And there have been many instances of death and injury on both sides, she said.
Between 2008 and 2013, nine people were killed and six more injured – plus four elephants killed – in Khao Ang Rue Nai Wildlife Sanctuary in the eastern region. There were also incidents in Klong Krua Wai in Chanthaburi last year when four villagers died and two were injured in elephant attacks.
Earlier this year there were two more deaths – a villager killed after being stomped by an elephant who intruded on a farm on January 22, and wildlife research official Praijit Mukchin, who was killed as he observed a herd on March 1.
The department has been trying to solve this problem. It has also been raising funds to compensate families for deaths or damage to property by elephants, she said.
Other measures include having related officials watched elephant herds to identify habitat and hunting routes so they can warn people nearby; building/repairing barriers to prevent elephant from straying; and distributing a handbook about elephant behaviour and how to avoid or survive encounters, Tuanjai said.
A team has been set up to work on long-term solutions to promote peaceful co-existence, she said.
These included the promotion of forestland with potential to support wild elephants, training officials to watch elephants, and strict enforcement of the law toward people who encroach on forestland.
Yoo Senatham, director of the Protected Areas Regional Office 2 in Chon Buri, said he suspended a project on herding elephants back to forest following Praijit’s death. But he said officials remained there to watch out for elephants.
His jurisdiction has 385 tuskers, including 70 elephants at Kaeng Hang Maew in Chanthaburi, where 10 officials are needed to watch them while villagers serve as back-up volunteers.