1,000 Elephants Could Starve To Death As Coronavirus Cripples Tourism In Thailand
Thailand - for better or worse - is home to around 4,000 captive elephants. The owners of those captive elephants depend on income from tourists to pay to feed the animals.
Without the tourists, they are unable to feed their elephants.
Thailand, like pretty much everywhere else on the planet, has been hit hard by the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak. There have been 2,826 cases of the disease, which has led to 49 fatalities so far.
Last month, the government declared a state of emergency.
Even outside of the elephants, the country relies heavily on the tourism industry, and now that the elephant camps have all been shut down by the government, the large food bills have not disappeared.
This all means that campaigners are worried for the safety of the creatures, with 1,000 of them thought to be at risk.
Save The Elephants Foundation told Sky News that those who can't be fed could be at risk of starving to death, or being put out onto the streets to try to get some money or food.
Founder Lek Chailert said: "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.
"Some of them could be sold to zoos, or they could be returned to the now outlawed logging business.
"It's a very bleak outlook unless some financial help is received immediately."
Obviously, the idea of keeping a large and intelligent creature such as an elephant in captivity has its own set of ethical quandaries, but whilst some camps that offer elephant rides have been criticised for the conditions that the animals live in, others are genuine sanctuaries that now face uncertainty over their future, and the future of the animals they care for.
It costs about £600 ($740) per month to feed an elephant, and on top of that, some of the elephants rely on the rides that they're asked to give for vital exercise.
Without that, they risk spending their days chained up with nowhere to go, and hungry.
One mahout - someone who rides and cares for elephants - called Veerayut, told The Sun that any keepers are already going without wages, and that the next thing to go would be the food for their animals.
He said: "That's what they are most afraid of.
"Even though the elephant might not belong to the mahout it's instinct that we have to take care of them because this is what we were born to do."
Featured Image Credit: PA