There are currently about three thousand Asian Elephants in Thailand (down from 100,000 elephants at the turn of the last century) with a total world population estimated at around 40,000 – 47,000 individuals. Research puts this number as declining at around 3 % per year.
Elephants are extremely important to Thailand and its society. They are greatly respected and at one point featured on the National Flag of Siam. The domestic population of Thailand’s Elephants currently numbers at around 2,000. These animals have traditionally been used in the logging industry and the Thai population has worked with Elephants for centuries, even using them to plough rice fields instead of buffalos.
So why do we have this number of Elephants in captivity in Thailand? Well, for centuries Elephants have been used to haul timber in its lucrative logging industry. In 1989, according to an enormous deforestation from 53% of the Thai land mass covered in forests in 1961 down to a mere 25% in the 90es, and due to public pressure, Thailand introduced a law to ban logging.This was fantastic, as it meant that domestic Elephants were not used any longer to cut down their own habitat. Many new national parks were established and the beginning of forest conservation in Thailand truly began.
Unfortunately the damage was already done, from being a country covered almost 80% in forest only about 15% remained – clearly not enough for the whole population of Elephants to survive.