World Animal Protection has launched an urgent appeal to help elephant-friendly venues with running costs, amid fears enormous gains in animal-welfare could be lost due to the collapse of tourism across Asia.
According to the charity, elephants consume 10 per cent of their body weight in food every day – up to 400 kilograms of grass, leaves, fruits and vegetables – which ne to be paid for and transported.
But with tourism across Thailand, Nepal, Cambodia and Laos grinding to a halt due to international travel restrictions, the likes of Chang Chill, Following Giants and Boon Lott Elephant Sanctuary (BLES) have been left without a reliable source of funds to take care of the animals under their care.
“As the world is in lockdown and the tourism industry dries up, wild animals – that should never have been in captivity in the first place – could suffer most, left abandoned, neglected and starving,” World Animal Protection global head of wildlife Audrey Mealia said.
According to the charity, 11 high-welfare venues caring for a combined total of over 150 elephants are at risk.
World Animal Protection has previously supported the transition of venues to become high welfare and elephant friendly, including ChangChill and Following Giants in Thailand, representing the potential for future responsible tourism.
Donations of as little as $41 can contribute to emergency food, supplements and medicine. If you would like to help, click here.
As of mid-May, all 14 rangers policing 18,000 hectares of evergreen lowland forest in the national park are still operating, relying on funds from the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF).
However, the foundation said these funds could run out as early as the end of May.
“We are extremely proud of the rangers’ efforts over the last six years. They have all-but stamped out bushmeat poaching, the illegal wildlife trade and land grabbing on the concession,” John Roberts, director of elephants and conservation at GTAEF, said.
However, the last guest at Cardamom Tented Camp checked out on 30 March, leaving the ecolodge without a source of reliable funds for nearly two months.
According to Michaud, who is still resident at the lodge, ranger patrols were vital to stop illegal logging and hunting, which is lethal for mammals such as pangolins, gibbons, deer and wild cats.
“Unfortunately, our foundation’s income is also largely derived from tourism which has stopped. So a FundRazr page is our last best hope for forest and wildlife protection in Botum Sakor for the next few months, until tourism picks up again,” Roberts said.