Elephants and their mahouts planted rice to grow their own food after being left out of work during the Covid-19 pandemic in Thailand.
After months of no income, animal caretakers decided to produce their own feed to give 71 jumbos at the Maesa Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai province.
Mahouts and camp officials held a religious ceremony at the seven-acre paddy field before sowing the rice seedlings with the help of elephants and locals,
Footage shows the mahouts and children holding baskets of seedlings while the jumbos stood on the wet paddies waiting for instructions.
Elephant camp owner Anchalee Kanlamapijit said they had been plating for two years but this year’s would be different because this could become the animals’ main food source due to the pandemic.
She said: ‘In the first year, we harvested around 100 sacks of unmilled rice that fed the elephants for up to two months. This helped us reduce the cost of taking care of the elephants.
‘This year’s planting would be different because the camp’s food greatly relies on the harvest. That is why we held the religious ceremony.’
Before the second wave of the coronavirus, the elephant camp had about 70,000 visitors locally but their past earnings were still not enough to cover the losses.
Anchalee added: ‘I drained out my 20 million baht worth of savings to cover the camp’s expenditure. Now I have to borrow another 60 million baht to take care of the elephants.
‘I also want the government to speed up vaccination. One mahout is needed to feed an elephant and if was to be infected with Covid-19, an elephant might not be familiar with being fed by a stranger.’
One of the mahouts Dang Naitee, 30, said: ‘I have registered for vaccination a long time ago but no appointments have been made for injections.
‘I’m worried because in our district there were many new Covid-19 clusters, if somebody gets infected I fear it may affect the elephants.’
Thailand has recorded 672,385 Covid-19 cases and 5,503 deaths.
Economists said that it could be another five years before the country’s tourism industry returns to pre-pandemic levels.
Two years ago tourism made up an estimated 21 per cent of Thailand’s GDP, generating 1.8 trillion baht in revenue. However, the country’s National Economic and Social Development Council predicted that it could be another five years before similar numbers are seen.
Analysts said that between now and 2026, around seven million workers will continue to be affected by the economic harm from the Covid-19 pandemic.