Thailand has introduced fines for anyone who feeds elephants in the capital city.
Bangkok authorities said anyone caught handing bunches of bananas or sugar cane to the animalss – proffered by their handlers to make money – faces a $320 fine.
Thailand has about 2,400 domestic elephants. There is little demand these days for the animals’ traditional skills in logging and other labour, so owners sometimes loan them for begging from tourists and locals in major cities.
“The ordinance is issued to prevent untidiness or danger toward properties and lives of Bangkok residents,” said Manit Techa-apichoke, deputy director of the City Law Enforcement Department, adding there were cases of elephants hurting people and falling into drains.
Friends of the Asian Elephant, a Thai non-governmental group which cares for injured or mistreated elephants, called the fines a good start.
“I have been asking for them to do this for 15 years,” said its founder, Soraida Salwalla, adding that she hoped other Thai cities would follow suit. “It is not the total solution, but it is a help.”
Previously, mahouts – as elephant handlers are known – and their accomplices were fined for bringing an elephant into Bangkok, but those feeding the animal escaped punishment.
Typically a tourist would pay 20 baht (62 US cents) for the privilege of handing a bunch of fruit or vegetables into the elephant’s trunk.