Starving Elephants Forgotten Victims of COVID-19 Tourism Collapse
A campaign is launched to help feed and care for elephants across Asia affected by the COVID-19 tourism downturn
By: World Elephant Foundation
The foundation has launched the 'Save the Asian Elephant' campaign to raise awareness and funds to help protect the large mammals during the pandemic lockdown and aftermath. Tourists who have visited Asia, and those planning to vacation in Asia, are being asked to support an international campaign to help feed starving elephants affected by the tourism downturn and COVID-19 travel restrictions.
"Elephants are literally the biggest victims of the COVID-19 pandemic," says WEF director Nudplee Hamundee. "Elephant shelters and parks throughout Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, which normally rely on tourists for revenue, face many challenges to survive in 2020."
South-East Asia is heavily dependent on tourism, so elephant owners, carers and herders suffered financial hardship when visitor numbers starting dropping in mid-January, meaning they had difficulty feeding the animals which can eat between 200 and 400 kilograms a day of food. "The outlook is grim. It costs around US$12-20 a day to buy grass, bamboo and crops, but money is running out to feed these animals."
Many elephant camps rely on volunteers, using additional funds to further animal welfare, combat smuggling and encourage conservation and habitat restoration, but Mr Hamundee says while tourists can postpone their travel to South East Asia, the elephants need to eat.
WEF estimates that there are several thousand elephants throughout the region who are going hungry since all tourist activity was stopped. "If nothing is done, many of these elephants may starve to death. Some could be sold for illegal logging or hard labour, and pregnant females smuggled. There is no government support to help these elephants, that is why we are reaching out to friends of elephants around the world, to help save the Asian elephant during these difficult times."
He says reports from the field suggest that many elephants are showing signs of stress and depression. "Compassionate friends around the globe can help sponsor an individual elephant. Unfortunately, in the months to come, we believe there will be another 300 elephants in the region who need our help to survive this year."
He is optimistic that concerned tourists who have visited South East Asia, as well as those planning to visit after the COVID-19 pandemic is over, will show solidarity with other mammals sharing the earth. "Our vision is for a world where animals live free from suffering. But it is only by working together we can change the world for animals."
World Elephant Foundation