It was just a matter of time before I’d find myself blogging about my favorite animal, the ‘elephant’ more specifically, the Asian (Thai) elephant. There is no doubt that elephants play an important role in Thai history and culture. Known to be nobly and faithfully, they served both kings and commoners in war and in commerce, therefore, they became symbols of both “power and peace”. I know Richard blogged about National Thai Elephant Day in March which I enjoyed reading.
However, it ‘seems’ that elephants have slowly been losing their stature over the years. Today, I want to share the story of ‘Pang Boonlong’ that was in the headlines at dailynews the other day.
(Pang Boonlong – AP dailynews.co.th)
Pang Boonlong (‘Pang’ because elephants are regarded highly), a female elephant of 3-4 years, still a baby at that, was being used by her mahout to beg for money from tourists and locals in Chiang Mai. She had been so tired and people kept telling them not to bother. Pang Boonlong became very tired, having eaten little, the mahout seemingly wanted to satisfy his own drinking habits. He had been riding her, possessing a steel bar and when he realised the police were after him, he started hitting poor Pang Boonlong over the head many times in order to get her moving. The baby elephant was in shock after he did this to her and starting rummaging around, crashing into two cars before shaking him off of her. 30 police had arrived but none were able to catch one drunken man as he got away while everyone was still shocked over a loose elephant. When the vet had gotten closer, they realised what a huge gash she had on her head, blood trickling down on her which made her cry. Yes, cry. Elephants cry. Pang Boonlong was in much pain. I think the police must still be searching for her tormentor.
When my mother had read and told me about this, I felt so sad and teary-eyed asking “Why? Why would someone be that cruel?” I’ve read many other stories about abuse in regards to elephants [and other creatures] which is very saddening. There were opinions on Pang Boonlong’s story and one man had commented that there are some mahouts that take their elephants into the city to sell sugar canes for the elephants to eat. People that buy the sugar canes will see that the mahout gives the cane to the elephant to eat but as soon as they turn their back, the mahout would hit the elephant on the head so it would spit the cane back out and re-sell it. He said to let more people know about this kind of cruelty and that if people were to give money, to tell the mahout directly that this money is FOR the elephant only.
Although, I can neither confirm nor deny this story, I wouldn’t doubt it. It is something to be aware of. Another question, why do I feel so passionate about elephants?
Well, the first time I came in contact with an elephant was when my parents took us to a zoo somewhere in Bangkok when I was 4 years old. A green blanket was placed on the back of a large tusked male elephant as my 3-year-old brother and I we were lifted onto him. In fact, I could still vividly recall what that was like. I was very excited but scared too. What if the elephant threw us off with its big tusks? I really held onto my brother who seemed just as excited. Eventually, the mahouts (elephant carers) would give us bananas to feed our large friend. My brother did most of the feeding as the large trunk reached over its head to grab the treats. For me, I could only sit and watch in awe as he did this.
My brother and I as kids on a Thai elephant
Ever since then, the elephant had always left a special impression on me. I didn’t know why, after all, all I did was sit on its back. Maybe, looking at the picture, it was its eyes or how calm it was? Still, whenever someone asked ‘what is your favorite animal’, I’d have to say ‘elephants’. There’s a supersition I once heard that said, touching an elephant is good luck. It is a heartbreaking shame (to me at least), that they are greatly mistreated. Hopefully, the next time I’m in Thailand, I can contribute something to elephant welfare programs or charities, and best of all, get back on a cute loveable chaang again.
PS: I’ve gotten questions from some which I’ve noted down and will address in future blog entries so if you have any, let me know and I will get to them na kha.