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Thailand's Rising Wild Elephant Population Triggers Human-Elephant Conflicts

Thailand grapples with an escalating human-elephant conflict due to a growing wild elephant population. Strategies include patrolling, a proposed wild elephant movement center, and an emergency group to drive elephants back into forests.

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BNN Correspondents
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Thailand's Rising Wild Elephant Population Triggers Human-Elephant Conflicts

Thailand, a country known for its dense forests and rich biodiversity, is currently grappling with an escalating conflict between humans and the increasing population of wild elephants. Over the past few years, the country has witnessed a significant surge in its wild elephant population, which has risen from an estimated 3,500-4,000 in 2018 to between 4,013 and 4,422 in recent years. This population explosion has led to heightened human-elephant conflicts, with a concerning tally of 180 injuries and 202 fatalities recorded from 2015 to early 2024.

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Rising Tensions between Humans and Elephants

A recent incident that has brought this issue into sharp focus involved around 150 wild elephants leaving Khao Ang Rue Nai Wildlife Sanctuary. These elephants caused substantial crop damage and disrupted local communities, underlining the urgent need for effective conflict management strategies. The sanctuary is believed to house around 592 wild elephants, a significant jump from 492 in 2018.

Government Steps in to Mitigate Conflict

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In response to the burgeoning crisis, the Department of National Parks (DNP) has deployed about 100 rangers to patrol forest boundaries and prevent elephants from entering human habitats. Phadet Laithong, head of the DNP's Wildlife Conservation Office, has further proposed the establishment of a center to manage wild elephant movements, reflecting the government's commitment to resolving this issue.

A Unified Approach to Wildlife Conservation

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Patcharawat Wongsuwan, along with DNP officials, have convened to form an emergency group. This group is tasked with driving the elephants back into the forests and keeping them away from human settlements. This collaborative effort underscores the government's commitment to safeguarding both human lives and the country's natural heritage.

In other news, Shaunzi, a 53-year-old female Asian elephant originally from Thailand, has died at the Los Angeles Zoo. Shaunzi spent her early years in a circus before moving to California. Despite the dedicated efforts of veterinarians and animal care staff, she was unable to stand back up and was ultimately euthanized. Her death has left the L.A. Zoo staff devastated and has prompted local animal protection groups to hold a candlelight vigil in front of the L.A. Zoo to honor the elephants who died in captivity in 2023.

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