Category Archives: Animals in Thailand

Nothing Much Has Changed

Ban Ta Klang Elephant Village

It’s 2013. The time when information is available at the tips of your fingers. The time when the world is so connected, whatever trends at one end of the world would catch on in the other in the matters of hours and days.

Not too long ago, a person I just met asked me just about all of the routine questions.

Her: So, what nationality are you?

Ding. Routine question #1.

Me: I’m Thai.

Her: From Taiwan?

Ding. #2

Me: No. Thais are from Thailand. Taiwanese are from Taiwan.

Her: Oh. So, Bangkok?

Me: (surprised, actually) Yes.

Her: Do you ride elephants?

Me: Yes. My dad only uses our rickshaw on the weekend.

Her: Really?

Me: No.

Sure, she skipped “What nationality is your husband? American?” and that “Oh she must’ve been a mail order bride and/or rescued prostitute” look that briefly registered on her face before moving on to, “So, how did you guys meet?”

True, she also skipped, “I LOVE Thai food! Pad Thai is my favorite!”

But it’s 2013. Six whole years after this incident.



Yet Another…Animal Blog?!

(Pic from the Thai Press, the Chiang Mai wolf….after a month on the run)

Classic story from last week just had to be horrifying news of the Canadian Chiang Mai imported wolf loose on the prowl after legging it from its home – the Night Safari. To the fear of every local chicken, the wolf was left to its own devices to wander the streets of this northern town for an entire month before the Night Safari authorities admitted the blunder to the media. Just last week, to the cries of relief from the complete chicken population of Chiang Mai, the authorities issued an award of 10,000 baht to anyone who could capture the wolf – alive!

Finally, just a couple of days back, our wolf-friend was finally apprehended by some smiling swift-handed happy locals. On being shown off to the press, the poor wolf looked so darned hungry and weary – it must have been glad to be back behind bars. Shivering, shaking and starving the wolf was ordered into quarantine for a Rabies examination after it had been spotted getting up to some hanky-panky with some stray street-mutt!

Continuing with the Chiang Mai theme, a few animals that probably won’t be bothered with any of that ‘escaping lark’ just have to be the city’s Panda Bears ‘Chuang-Chuang and Lin-Hui’. Unlike the lack-lustre attendance of the Night Safari, the Pandas have been one huge success scoring higher attendance rates than even a PM Thaksin political rally! And definitely unlike the wolf, the pandas – basking in their glorious success, have refrained from conducting any extra-curricular duties which animals of the opposite sex ought to perform. Even the help of some imported Chinese Panda Porn movies failed to ignite Chuan-Chuang’s innate instincts – anyway who could blame the fluffy thing, what with hundreds of school kids peeving through the glass 18 hours a day. Can you not blame the pandas for showing a bitta modesty!?

(Enjoying the good life……in Chiang Mai)

The pandas at Chiang Mai really do look like a couple of happy big balls of cotton wool, especially when they are afforded better treatment than most people. While the pandas are given permanent residence visas and all the luxuries under the sun – thousands of Chiang Mai Hill Tribes, though born in the country, are still denied a Thai ID Card thus disallowing them from basic human rights. After visiting the pandas, the foreign tourist can next turn left up to Mae Hong Sorn province to witness for himself another caged-in attraction, though perhaps living in worse conditions than the Chinese pandas – the Village of The Long-necked Karen Hill Tribe.

Once upon a time while living in Nakhorn Rathchasima up there in the country’s north-east, I was lucky enough to secure myself the privilige of teaching at the HQ of The Second Army Area. Now, this camp is home to only one of Thailand’s two official horse racing tracks and gambling is….. legal there. Since all me students were high-ranking Army officers they also made up most of the committee members. Invited along for the first time I was soon sat in the VIP judges’ rooms looking directly over the finishing line. Not a bad perk of the job I thought and was even more delighted to be on the receiving end of an impressively large bottle of complimentary Johnie Walker Black Label. The officers soon explained that due to having extra-knowledge about the in-form horses, I was in for making a sure winner.

Sipping away on me freebie whisky with one hand, and a couple of hundred baht notes in the other, I was soon distraught at the outcome of the first race. There was me darned horse, a fine muscular brute whipping the field at the first three laps, a hundred yards in front – when suddenly for no apparent reason in the final lap, it decides to take it easy and gallop at snail’s pace as if it were out on an afternoon’s stroll. Trailing in almost last, there were cried of ‘Fixed fixed’ from the staff. Undeterred from what looked like an obvious set-up, I continued putting on a few more wagers before returning home broke. Anyway, I really enjoyed my outings to the Horse Racing Tracks and thank me students for the VIP teacher service. So, if you’re ever up there in Nakhorn Ratchasima and fancy a flutter then pop on over for the show. I think the normal attendance fee was like a hundred baht. By the way, none of the horses looked like they had been loaned from China for 10 million baht.

(Where the thing ought to be……..not in the bathroom)

When I first arrived in the Land of Smiles, one of the first animals which caught my attention, just had to be the bathroom-ceiling dwelling Thai gecko. Now, I have never been that disturbed by the sight of the four-legged things but for most of the Thai population they are the ugliest things to walk the earth. The gecko also gets common parts in Thai horror movies with the 6 foot-high screaming ghost gecko sure to scare the living daylights out of the average Thai kid. I just realized a year or so back that geckos are rather subtle animals. Seeing one lying half-dead on me toilet floor, I thought it would be appropriate to chuck the thing outside into the plants. To my horror its leg fell of when I tried to pick it up, then even worse was when I plucked at its tail! The three-legged tailless torso, soon got the end of my broom instead. After that episode, I have certainly distanced myself from aiding a sick gecko again.

I don’t mind geckos, but I do mind cockroaches! Once, while in a Thai friend’s room in an apartment up there in Huay Kwang in Bangkok, I was bewildered to see this big fat cockroach running around the room as if it owned the place. On asking me friend (a ladyboy in fact) to why she didn’t spray the thing, explained “That cockroach is my friend I just let be”. Next, a few days later, on returning to my room I spotted a cockroach dashing back and forth at the sight of the light going on. Remembering what my friend had said, I decided to do the humane thing at just let the thing live at its own free-will. When a Farang friend living upstairs popped up to my room, I proudly pointed out my eight-legged crusty friend and told him that it was my new pet. Thinking I had gone mad at such behavior he scoffed at the idea of not killing the thing.

Anyway, after a couple of days at the beach down in Pattaya or somewhere like that I came back to a whole darned room-full of cockroaches. Opening up the door, I must have spotted about ten of them running for dear life! Displeased at taking advantage of my welcoming courtesy I bought one of those Japanese imported Zuper-Zap Cockroach electronic devices down at Fuji supermarket. Returning an hour after I had turned the thing on, I was flabbergasted to see the remains of 50 cockroaches lying flat on their backs on me carpet. Oops…..

Thailand’s…Love of Animals!

(National Geograhic foto of formerly injured Bangkok street elephant)

Now, if you are a newbie teacher to Thailand and were wondering of some lesson plan to get the kids laughing, one of the classics just has to be teaching animal sounds. Just as us foreigners speak different languages to the sing-along sounding one the locals speak in Thailand, it seems that the local animals speak a different lingo too.

Now, a duck in Farangland may say ‘quack-quack’ but just ask the Thais and they will laugh at any such sound and inform you that a Thai duck does in fact, say ‘gap-gap’. As for birds abroad who sing out ‘tweet-tweet’, Thai birds enjoy nothing more that a good ‘jeep-jeep’. Thai dogs just love to ‘hao-hao’, the pigs a ‘oot-oot’ but as for cats, they like to ‘meow’ just like their Farang counterparts. Chickens however, well they are different kettle of fish altogether. None of that ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’ for the local chickens here in LOS, here it’s ‘eggy-eggy-aek’. There are more, but start off with those for starters, and yer kiddie students will be rolled up in laughter at the sound of Farang animals!

Thinking about Thailand and her animals, I guess one of the first animals that springs to mind just has to be the ‘elephant’. Once upon a time I had the privilege of working as an extra on some Beer Singha TV commercial up there in Chiang Rai. Since my job was as one of only three extras, I had the wonderful pleasure of being sat on my bottom for the first one and a half days of shooting while the well-paid ‘main actors’ strut their stuff. Not minding the chore just as long as I was getting paid, I was also very chuffed with the free cans of beer laid on by Beer Singha. By the time I was on the set, my job was to sit on one of the elephants for an enduring two hours and toss myself to-and-fro while the thing was walking around. Sat on an elephant is quite a scary experience, almost like being sat on some flimsy scaffolding on the third floor which feels like it’s going to give way at any moment. Being told to giddy ourselves left to right with the rhythm of the elephant’s walking was complete exaggeration and also a rather dangerous feat after an afternoon’s consumption of free beer. I must have done a decent job however, as that Beer Singh commercial stayed on the screens for a year or so.

Anyone who has been to Thailand must have seen an elephant walking the streets with some scruffy looking lads strolling alongside asking you to pity the animal and feed it some bananas at 20 baht a shot. In fact, such activity is illegal in Thailand but the local powers in charge don’t seem to notice. Anyway, could you imagine the sight of the police arresting a ten ton elephant and having it leg-cuffed to the back of a cop pick-up and hauled off to the station! As for trying to stuff the thing in a cell, now that would be one heck of a sight!

Personally, I refrain from buying any 20 baht bananas for begging elephants. I can’t count how many times now that I have read stories about some pitiful elephant, who on walking down the road, got one of its huge legs stuck in a man-hole. Unlike humans who can help ourselves in such a situation, the average elephant has to been winched out my some crane, and on securing some permanent injury, has its life cut short. A few years ago too, it was found out that the Bangkokian street mahouts had gone to extra lengths to make sure their beasts had the energy to walk for 18 hours non-stop. After urine checks of a couple of elephants by the local ‘save the elephant’ foundation it was deciphered that the elephants were literally on ‘speed’ – methamphetamine!

Now, one of the biggest debates lately, is whether an elephant is better off roaming the streets of Bangkok or being stuck at some Australian zoo. The debate came to light after protesters blocked the path of some of the beasts who were on their way to some ship headed for Sydney. Distraught at the future of the elephants walking the holey streets, the folks behind the ‘export deal’ explained that the average Thai elephant would prefer a life behind bars that being subjected to a life on the streets as a beggar. The debate rages on……..

(File foto of Chiang Mai giraffe on hearing of its not-so delicious fate)

Getting off the controversial subject of elephants for the moments, let us look at another highly controversial subject and that is the government’s plans for nature’s wildlife. After great pompous affair, Chiang Mai’s enormous brand-new Night Safari was opened to the public! Our beloved caretaker PM, Mr Thaksin, who on wanting to arrange a delicious banquet for a whole host of VIPs, showed just how much he cares for animals and ordered a splendid mouth-watering menu of Giraffe Steak, Bear Burgers, Tender Tiger Tendons and Roasted Rhino. Of course, the banquet never happened after an outpour of public disbelief at such a quack-wack idea.

Well, the Night Safari is looking like a complete public flop after the figures show that hardly anyone turns up. Don’t blame the public however, why waste your money on a safari park that doesn’t have much safari to see. A couple of African nations must have heard about the government’s VIP food banquet bonanza and decided to bunk out of any deals to send over any of ‘their’ rare animals. If you are lucky, you may see a chimpanzee, a bird going ‘jeep-jeep’ and a big parrot saying ‘Sawatdee-Krap’. As for the giraffes however; the last news I heard about them was that they had gone berserk at the prospect of being served with potatoes and carrots, hurdled the safari fence and ‘fled the scene’- never to be seen again. Or may be not, perhaps they will be spotted being walked along Pattaya beach next year by a few more scruffy looking beggars, asking tourists to buy some grass for its mouth.

And on the subject of Africa, there is much to say about stereotype in Thailand (just like anywhere I guess) and our friends from Africa are no exception. A couple of years back, I had the job of taking a bunch of school girls down to Khao Kiew Open Zoo in Chonburi province. Just as I was there, the kids were excited by the zoo’s banners reading ‘Africa Theme Month’. Wondering what the heck they meant by that, I was soon to witness loads of African guys dressed up in some Zulu outfits, waving their swords and shields at passer-by buses while chasing the animals from one tree to the other. Could imagine hundreds of protests if they put on a show like that back in Farangland! Of course, it looked like just one big joke and to the kids it was – they loved it. By the way, Khao Kiew Open Zoo is a great park and would thoroughly recommend it.

(“Should i gap-gap or quack-quack?”)

Who needs to go to some wildlife park in Thailand, when any old house in some rural village has an array of ever-friendly animals? If you are invited to stay at a house in the countryside, be well-prepared for one of the big cocks to give its rendition of ‘Eggy-eggy-aek’ at 4 o’clock in the morning. Then, at the sight of your scary white ghost-like Farang face popping out for a morning coffee, the local dogs will get the fright of their lives, jump for your ankles and go into a bout of ‘hao-hao-hao-hao’. And… as a man, do be careful of the local country ducks. You are warned, our beaked friends don’t have the best of senses or eye-sight. You may be sat at a table, wearing yer shorts and reading a newspaper – but if one of the ducks comes wobbling under the table singing ‘gap-gap’ – you may be in for one very nasty experience if it mistakenly snaps at your ‘privates’ thinking they’re some kind of imported Farang fish’!