Travelers love the experience of getting up close and personal with exotic animals from all around the world – which is why safaris and other “animal friendly” activities like riding elephants are so popular among tourists.
In fact, elephant handlers make some serious cash off tourists who want to “ride elephants” for fun.
But with the coronavirus bringing travel and tourism to a halt, animal owners can no longer afford to feed their elephants.
As a result, abandoned elephants are left starving in the streets begging for food – or forced into illegal activities to transport goods.
Lack Of Food
Elephants need roughly 660 pounds of food a day to survive.
That’s a lot of food…
…and at that quantity, the price really adds up the more elephants you have.
But with elephant tourism down and owners out of options, things are looking bleak.
After all, scoring a decent amount of food is considered a luxury for people right now – let alone elephants.
Many people can barely afford to feed their own families – never mind pay thousands of dollars to feed multiple elephants.
And in countries where elephant tourism is the livelihood for many, there’s no money to feed the elephants. And if elephants starve to death, they won’t be available for tourism in the future.
It’s a vicious cycle.
One elephant camp in Thailand is feeling the blow of the lockdown and it’s forced employees to resort to gathering weeds to feed starving elephants because they can’t afford to buy fruit.
“In a normal season, the Taweechai Elephant Camp in the western province of Kanchanaburi would welcome more than 100 tourists per day, mostly from Russia and European countries. Each tourist would spend around $30 to $150 for different activities, such as riding or feeding elephants.
But now there is only money going out, and no money coming in. Feeding the camp’s 25 elephants, and paying the mahouts and other staff costs around 1 million baht ($30,395) a month, according to owner Dumrong Longsakul.”
Pregnant And Starving
Whether you are an animal lover or not, it’s clear the coronavirus has trickled into the lives of animals – leaving many who were once fed and cared for now abandoned.
Naturally, most people are choosing to prioritize feeding humans over animals.
“Lek Chailert, founder of the Save Elephant Foundation, told the BBC: “If there is no support forthcoming to keep them safe, these elephants, some of whom are pregnant, will either starve to death or may be put on to the streets to beg.”
Alternatively, some elephants may be sold to zoos or they may be returned to the illicit logging business, which officially banned the use of elephants in 1989.
“It’s a very bleak outlook unless some financial help is received immediately,” Lek Chailert adds.
And while some animal owners may truly want to help their animals (even if just to stay in business for themselves), the odds aren’t looking good.
It’s hard to allocate money to feed elephants when your own family is begging for food.
Is Elephant Tourism Dead?
No one knows how the coronavirus will end up changing the travel business, but industries like elephant tourism are bound to be affected.
To start, people simply can’t afford the luxury to pay hundreds of dollars to ride an elephant.
And since the coronavirus has now spread worldwide, many people will likely be too scared to venture overseas anytime soon.
As a result, without the money off susceptible tourists, the elephant business could become extinct.
At least animals subject to tourism were getting fed… now they are left to fend for themselves.
And even if tourists wanted to spend their cash to ride elephants, the coronavirus might wipe out these majestic creatures as families are forced to choose between feeding themselves or their elephants.
Time will tell how this all shakes out, but things don’t look good for Dumbo and his friends.
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