February 14, 2022
BANGKOK – Thailand’s elephant and tiger attractions have run out of money and options, says operators, who pleaded for government assistance on Sunday.
The message was delivered at Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai, where tourism commissioner Sirinthorn Ramsut and Pheu Thai MPs met with zoo operators to seek a path out of the business downturn caused by Covid-19.
Sirinthorn highlighted the government’s low-interest loan programme to revive businesses but said it was still insufficient and difficult to access.
Pacha Rattanaphan, president of Chiang Mai Tourism Business Association, said Thailand’s five tiger attractions had run out of cash after failing to secure financial credit from banks.
He added that elephant sanctuaries faced difficulty securing loans as their land was often undocumented. He called on the government to allow the sanctuaries to put up their elephants as collateral for loans to buy animal feed in the absence of income from tourists.
He also urged authorities to develop sustainable-crop projects to feed tigers and elephants.
The managing director of Khum Sue Trakarn, which operates two Tiger Kingdoms in Chiang Mai and one in Phuket, said their income had dropped from almost 1 million baht per day pre-Covid to zero over the past two years.
“The company still has to bear the burden of feeding and housing the existing 220 tigers,” Kochakorn Chaibutr said. “We used to have about 400 employees but now only 30 per cent of the workforce is left. The company still needs working capital for expenses of 4-5 million baht per month. Kochakorn called on the government to find a financial institution that would loan money to his company.
Wittaya Phongsiri, owner of the Lanna Kingdom Elephant Sanctuary in Chiang Mai’s Mae Taeng district, said elephant attractions in the northern province have suffered for the past two years of the pandemic.
He demanded three things from the government – suspension of all debt repayments for elephant businesses until the Covid situation improves, a financial institution that would provide low-interest business loans, and help with expenses for feeding the elephants, which he called a living heritage of the Thai people.