Credit: Thaithong Thongthai

Meeting planned to address Khao Yai elephants’ plight

A hunger strike by a conservationist calling for better park and wildlife management continues, still.

It’s been a week straight that conservationist Khemthong Moras went on a hunger strike, and his action was strong enough to move other conservation groups to take action on the recent tragedy of elephant deaths at the torrential waterfall of Haew Narok in Khao Yai National Park, the World Heritage site.

On October 5, 11 out of 13 elephants were found having plunged to death at the waterfall, a rare incident with high casualties on the country’s records that prompted conservationists including Khemthong of Dek Raksa Pa in the northeastern province of Surin to call for preventive measures to be stepped up as they felt that they may have become lax.

Yesterday, the conservation groups around Khao Yai led by Raksa Khao Yai issued a statement calling on the National Parks Department to take action to prevent such the incident to happen again in the future.

They have received a good response as the the department has agreed to hold a meeting at the end of this month to brainstorm ideas for possible solutions to the problem.

According to the groups, there were calls on preventive measures after eight elephants had similarly plunged to death at the same waterfall in 1992. Those included both imediate and long-term measures, from the installment of barricades, regular guarding around the waterfall, to studies on elephants’ ecology, and participatory management at the park.

While the barricades were erected and some guards were deployed, other measures were apparently not met as expected, the groups claimed.

This time, they have made simliar calls, starting with revelation of the facts about the elephant deaths to address the true causes, especially that concerning speculation over the expansion of tourist facilities that may have interrupted the elephants inhibiting the area, consequently cornering them at the waterfall.

The groups have also called for the broken barricades to get fixed and lax guarding stepped up. Last but not least, they have called on research on wildlife to be conducted to help guide proper park management and participation in the management through a new park management master plan.

Khemthong who had jointly made the calls in the 1992 incident praised the groups’ proposal, saying it was thorough and covered all the points, eapecially possible ecological disruption by tourism facilities and activities in the area.

He hoped that it would bring about long-term park management that is appropriate to this World Heritage site.

Khemthong, however, would not end his hunger strike yet as he wished to turn this opportunity to pay tribute to the dead elephants for 11 days, his conservationist fellow said.

This will end on October 21, and the groups will hold a merit making for the dead elephants. They then would come back again at the meeting to help address Khao Yai elephants’ plight, hopefully some desirable solutions could be pushed through.