The University of Manchester has released a study by a team of academics about the dangers in Bangkok to the city’s street walkers – by which they mean elephants.
Despite the move into tourism, we have found evidence that street walking persists in some areas and that can be traumatic for the animals and a nuisance for humans.
And the almost total reliance on the tourist trade makes the Thai elephants especially vulnerable to a downturn in the market.
Despite the rather comical tone of the writing, not to mention the wonder that ivory-tower wonks in Manchester, England, have so few problems close to home, they have a point.
Elephants are banned from Bangkok, but can be found plodding along any popular main street in the evening, looking for food and a few baht for the mahout. The animals have no real future except tourism, and the numbers of tourists are slowly ebbing, thanks to high travel prices and the McDonaldsisation of Thailand.
Working the tourist shows is a better deal for the elephants than pushing logs (and maybe stepping on mines) out in the jungle, but it’s still not all that great.
Unfortunately the Manchester eggheads quickly move into teary, aren’t-the-Orientals-disgraceful mode instead of providing any thoughtful analysis or original ideas on just what should be done about these great beasts. They talk about a project to train elephants to survive when taken back to the wild, about as useful as the old plan to teach basket-weaving to the other, human streetwalkers of Bangkok.