Elephants Reclaim Popular National Park In Thailand Amid Lockdown
Khao Yai National Park is ordinarily heaving with crowds and traffic, however, it has been closed to the public since March - for the first time since it first opened in 1962.
During this period, the park's 300 or so elephants have begun to roam freely around the roads and tracks they'd ordinarily avoid. Other creatures such as the Asian black bear and the gaur - the world's biggest bovine - have also begun to emerge and Chananya Kanchanasaka, a vet at the park, said it is 'exciting' to see the park 'restore itself'.
Human intrusion has dramatically change life for animals in the park, with the development of roads a particular problem. One major way this has impacted elephants is by breaking up trails they use to access the river. The animals have subsequently adapted their route along a cliff in an area prone to flash floods, which has caused many elephants to drown.
A tragic mass drowning at the park last October made international headlines. The incident unfolded after a baby elephant slipped over the edge of a waterfall, known locally as Haew Narok (Hell's Fall), and other members of the herd jumped in and attempted to save it.
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At first six elephants were found dead, but this figure eventually increased to 11 - topping the previous record of eight, which fell to their deaths at the same waterfall in 1992.
Six wild elephants found dead at "Haew Narok Waterfall" in Thailand, at the same place where it happened as well in 1992. pic.twitter.com/naXD9ubttP
- Edwin Wiek (@EdwinWiek) October 5, 2019
Kemthong Morat, a prominent Thai conservationist who went on a hunger strike to bring attention to their plight, told The New York Times: "The deaths of the 11 elephants were preventable and the mismanagement by the park was preventable.
"They seem to forget that the national park's purpose is for research and conservation. Khao Yai's big tourism revenues made them forget the main purpose of the park."
In light of the resurgence of wildlife in the park, vet Chananya thinks lockdown should be seen as a turning point in how the country shares the park with wildlife.
She said: "We should consider if we should close down the park every year. Nature can restore itself to its fullest."
Featured Image Credit: PA