Nearly two hundred elephants are currently working on Phuket providing
visitors with safari trips into the jungles and along the waterways.
Almost this entire population of Asian elephants have been trucked
to South Thailand from the country's northeastern region where due
to a ban on logging ten years ago, the elephant lost their traditional
source of support.
Working in tourism has become the primary source of revenue for
many of Thailand's 2000 domesticated elephants.
Robert Greifenberg, founder of Siam Safari Nature Tours, began
the elephant trekking business in 1994 when he brought 15 of the
large animals to the island.
"Phuket has limited resources to care for elephants. An average
adult Asian elephant weighs three to five tons, eats 250 kilos
of vegetation and drinks over 200 liters of water each day,"
states Mr Greifenberg. "Much of the food has to be brought
in from neighboring provinces."
All elephants have a personal mahout or trainer who lives and cares
for their daily needs. However, often when the elephant falls ill,
these mahouts do not have the funds to pay for veterinary care or
In late 1997, the Dusit Laguna Resort Hotel joined with Siam Safari
Nature Tours to form Elephant Help, a non profit society which raises
funds for medical supplies and other support for the large animals.
Plans include to set up an elephant sanctuary in the region to care
for old, blind, sick or injured elephants which will include a burial
Initial fundraising efforts netted 120,000 Baht and were used by
three veterinarians from the Phuket Livestock Office visited 27
of the island's elephant trekking camps and examined 147 elephants
for disease and ailments.
They found 27 sick elephants. Fourteen had dermititis, seven suffered
from respiratory disorders, four had eye infections, five suffered
from dehydration will others had abscesses, allergies, urinary tract
infections and kidney stones.
Mark Van Ogtrop, General Manager of the Dusit Laguna Resort Hotel,
is an enthusiastic supporter of the elephant population on Phuket.
"The elephant has an amazing impact on our guests. No animal
better represents Thailand in the country's number one industry,
tourism, than the elephant. We should do everything possible to
support and care for Thailand's national animal," states Mr.
Most of Phuket's international resorts have a donation box for
the Elephant Help project. A visitor to Phuket can make an important
contribution to the well being of the elephants with a monetary
For more information about how to help Phuket's elephants, contact
the Elephant Help Project at (66 76) 280 116
or email: firstname.lastname@example.org