Wild elephants of Khao Chamao still rile their neighbors (Thailand)



Date Published
THE LONGSTANDING problem of wild elephants from Khao Chamao mountain ridge in Rayong roaming into residential areas or eating fruit in local plantations has continued despite various measures adopted to try to stop this.
The dredging of large deep canals to keep them from crossing to villages and farmland only works in part of the year. When the canals are full of rain-soaked clay the |animals are able to cross, the head of a local rescue and disaster relief |charity Lamphun Yordyadee said.
Many areas damaged by the elephants need to be declared disaster zones, and lengthy efforts and interviews with villagers have only upset them, he said, as people were angry about damage to their crops and property.
Building salt licks for elephants had been a little helpful but had not ended the problem, while growing banana trees for the elephants had also not resolved the problem, as thousands of banana trees were consumed in little more more than a week, Lamphun said. 
“A campaign to build salt licks for them to feed on can solve the problem for a while,” he said, noting that the issue of wild elephants was highly sensitive – almost a case of |people dying [because of possible attacks] or elephants dying.
Awiruj Sapphaso, who has an 18-rai plantation where fruit is regularly eaten by the wild animals, said the planting of banana trees and building of salt licks could not save plantations from being ravaged by elephants from the wild.
Awiruj plans to cut down the fruit trees on his land and plant rubber trees instead – to solve his problem. “I hope that the wild elephants will not bother me in the next few years. My plantations have now become their passageway.”
A herd of 30 elephants entered his plantations on Tuesday and fed on various fruit grown on his property. They also broke water tubes to drink from them, as it is currently a drought period in the wild.
Many fruit growers in the area have turned to cassava and rush to harvest crops – so the elephants don’t dig up and eat up all cassava, while any fruit, either still on trees or harvested and stored for delivery, is moved promptly.
There are around 80 elephants in Khao Chamao national park, which connects to the Khao Chamao mountain ridge, where there are 280 to 300 elephants. Some herds return to the wild after entering residential areas or feeding on fruit, while many others stay overnight or a couple of days, before roaming to other areas and returning.
The mountain ridge, which connects with five tambon in Khao Chamao district in Rayong, covers a vast area in four other provinces where around 23,000 residents – mostly farmers and fruit growers – live.
A local school has been advised by its parents and teachers’ association that a small forest behind it should be burnt out or dredged, as the elephants have regularly used it as a resting area. 
But the director of Ban Khao Cha-ang Khrom Khlong, Bunwej Daeng-ngarm, said a lawsuit had been filed by forestry officials against villagers and local politicians who were preparing to do burning and dredging at that site.
A teacher, Natthakorn Rattana, said a large herd of elephants recently went on to the school football pitch and students were called back to stay in the rooms. “It is scary, but it occurs so often that we are used to it now,” she said.