Safari animals sprayed with water to ease suffocating air pollution in Thailand


Safari animals were sprayed with water to cool them down and clear some of the suffocating air pollution in Thailand.

Footage shows a mini-water truck firing water into the animal enclosures at Chiang Mai Night Safari in Chiang Mai province on March 9.

Zoo director Benjaphon Nakprasert said they do this every year as a measure to increase humidity and tackle the air pollution issue – a method that is believed by some to clear the smog.

Benjaphon said: ‘We have also installed several sprinklers around the zoo aside from the truck that is going around following a route. Aside from reducing pollution, it also cools down the animals as the weather starts to become hot.’

Air pollution has worsened over the last two weeks following forest fires and agricultural fires. Officials believe that spraying water into the atmosphere increases humidity, which helps to absorb some of the toxic PM 2.5 particles.

It also helped to cool the animals during the daytime when the haze was stronger, especially the water-loving animals such as elephants, capybaras, and red river hogs.

The country has been suffering from debilitating levels of toxic air pollution for several years, with the government seemingly unable to fix the problem. 

Chiang Mai province in the north has ranked the world’s most polluted city for the past four days. The level of PM2.5 dust particles in the northern city exceeded the safe point, reaching 183 microgrammes per cubic metres by 2pm on March 10. It was the worst in the world in the morning before the smog eased in the afternoon.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha had a meeting with governors from 17 provinces affected by the hazardous haze when it escalated in September 2020.

The Thai leader promised the government would tackle the problem by eradicating the roots of wildfires but the agricultural practice – known as ‘slash and burn’- used by farmers to clear waste crops has continued.

Scientists believe is caused by a combination of still atmospheric conditions, a lack of rain and wind, agricultural burning and soaring numbers of cars and construction projects.

Smog is at its worst between January and March when farmers burn crops as it is combined with dry, stagnant weather and a winter low pressure system in which cold air is trapped closer to the ground by warm air above – preventing the pollution from being dispersed naturally.

The Thai government has been criticised for its handling of the country’s air pollution crisis. Measures introduced in 2019 to reduce pollution included spraying water into the air to increase humidity without success.

‘Unfortunately, spraying water does not appear to be effective, since the volume of water is minuscule compared to actual rain,’ wrote data scientist engineer Worasom Kundhikanjana in a research paper on air pollution.