February 14, 2022
BANGKOK – Thailand’s elephant and tiger attractions are running out of money and options, say the operators, who pleaded for government help on Sunday.
The message was delivered at the Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai, where Tourism Commissioner Sirinthorn Ramsut and MPs Pheu Thai met with zoo operators to find a way out of the business slowdown caused by Covid-19.
Sirinthorn pointed to the government’s low-interest loan scheme to revive businesses, but said it was still insufficient and difficult to access.
Pasha Rattanaphan, chairman of the Chiang Mai Tourism Business Association, said Thailand’s five tiger attractions were running out of money after failing to secure financial credit from banks.
He added that elephant sanctuaries struggled to get loans because their land was often undocumented. He called on the government to allow sanctuaries to offer their elephants as collateral for loans to buy animal food in the absence of income from tourists.
He also urged authorities to develop sustainable crop projects to feed tigers and elephants.
Managing director of Khum Sue Trakarn, which operates two Tiger Kingdoms in Chiang Mai and one in Phuket, said their income had fallen from almost 1 million baht a day before Covid to zero in the past two years.
“The company still has to bear the burden of feeding and housing the existing 220 tigers,” Kochakorn Chaibutr said. “Before, we had around 400 employees, but only 30% 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 lend money to his business.
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 over the past two years from the pandemic.
He demanded three things from the government – the suspension of all debt repayments for elephant businesses until the Covid situation improves, a financial institution that would provide low interest business loans interest and help with expenses to feed the elephants, which he called a living heritage of the Thai people.