The number of wild elephants in Thailand has declined steadily over the last three decades, mostly because of relentless habitat destruction, and experts estimate that at present only about 1500 wild elephants remain. Today, better management by state agencies and increased public awareness are helping the wild elephant population to stabilize.
In the middle of the nineteenth century, Thailand had as many as 100 000 domesticated elephants. The number of domesticated elephants started to decline about fifty years ago, as rapidly improving roads eroded the use of elephants in transportation - the most common work in the old days. Since its establishment in 1947, FIO acquired working elephants and for decades operated over 200 logging elephants.
FIO's first welfare effort, the establishment of the Young Elephant Training Center in 1969, evolved into the Thai Elephant Conservation Center (TECC) as a response to the nation-wide logging ban in 1989. There, FIO started a full-time mobile veterinary clinic and a hospital. In 2002, FIO established the National Elephant Institute of Thailand (NET) to promote the overall welfare of elephants and keepers' communities, for example, by helping to revise laws and develop self-sustaining, eco-friendly business models for the tourism industry.
In this evolution, the publication of the Elephant care manual for mahouts and camp managers adds another page of history in elephant welfare. The original idea for this care manual goes back to the 1997 FAO publication Gone astray: The care and management of the Asian elephant in domesticity by Richard Lair, who now serves at FIO as the special advisor to NEI. This manual represents the latest collaboration in a long and fruitful relationship between FIO and FAO.
FIO would like to express its appreciation to Mr Richard Lair and Mr Masakazu Kashio, Forest Resources Officer at the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok, who formulated the Elephant Care Manual project. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) provided the funding for the project, for which FIO extends its heartfelt thanks. FIO is proud of Dr Preecha Phuangkum, eminent elephant veterinarian and director of NEI, and Dr Taweepoke Angkawanith, elephant veterinarian serving at the TECC.
We hope that the Thai mahouts and elephant camp managers will find this manual useful in their daily work. Its application will contribute to improving the welfare of all of the domesticated elephants in Thailand.
Deputy Managing Director
Forest Industry Organization