The first nursing home for Thailand’s old and disabled elephants opened this week in Thailand’s far north, putting a new twist in a relationship stretching back thousands of year.
The Pang-La Nursery Home for Aged Elephants in Lampang province already has 30 guests and could soon be offering a tranquil retirement to as many as 200 elephants.
The pampered pachyderms have a small river to relax in and will dine on grass, banana trees, pineapple trees and traditional herbs. Their home is secure ‘until their last breath’, Manoonsak Tantiwiwat, chief of the Forest Industry Organisation, told the Bangkok Post.
His agency also plans to set a hospital for elephants in the southern province of Krabi next year. The FIO already has an ambitious programme underway to DNA-test all Thailand’s domestic elephants to prevent any more wild elephants being taken into captivity.
Today, most Thai elephants have it fairly easy – with nothing more arduous to do than carry around tourists.
Over the last few millennia, though, elephants have earned their place as a national symbol the hard way – providing transport for the teak industry and charging into battle to see off the marauding Burmese.
In spare moments, Thailand‘s elephants even provided marriage counselling. Or, at least, they provided a living exemplar for couples.
Husbands, apparently, were advised to imitate the elephant’s front legs, setting the course – while their wives should follow the example of the back pair, supplying the power.
But, despite their demanding lives, elephants are considered fortunate. Thais will still pay for the privilege of walking under one to pick up some of the luck.