Once the revered symbol of Thai culture, the backbone of industry and the protector of the country’s sovereignty during war, elephants now wander the streets of Bangkok, reduced to providing rides for tourists and helping their owners beg for their next meal.
Some of their owners bring them to Bangkok so they can afford to feed and care for the elephants, who are treated like family. Other owners are more mercenary, keeping the beasts in squalid conditions and renting them to the highest bidder for tourist rides.
Pollution, traffic and noise make Bangkok inhospitable to elephants. Their presence is a source of controversy. Preservation and environmental organizations try to protect the elephants in a world where they have little utilitarian value. Some groups promote elephant riding.
The Canadian photographer Brent Lewin, 29, fell in love with elephants as a tourist in 2002, when he rode one while visiting a remote area in the north of Thailand. Before that, most of his interactions with large animals occurred at petting zoos.
Mr. Lewin, a contributing photographer at Redux Pictures, has been documenting the plight of Bangkok’s elephants since 2007. Though he’s only been photographing seriously for three years, he has made a series of elegant and elegiac images.Pictures of elephants grace ancient temple walls and commercial billboards. They are a dearly loved symbol that is part of Thailand’s national narrative. Mr. Lewin wants the country to preserve and protect these living symbols of its heritage and history.“In battle, the elephants helped protect Thailand from colonization,” Mr. Lewin said. “But now Thailand has been penetrated by the forces of globalization.”“They fail to recognize that the elephant has fallen from grace.”
There are many of elephants walking around Bangkok city especially in the touristism area at night time, and many of the tourists feeds them then take photos with them as the symbol of visiting real Thailand. Even the Thai people do the same, its simply hard to resist not to feed those poor sad eyes elephants....I used to do that too everytime I see elephants on the road untill one night....I was out in town walking with friends and see the small elephant with the mahouts, we bought the food to feed them as usual, after that they took the elephant walk away but I still kept my eyes on them wondering where are they going...
Then I saw they take the elephant into the small place between 2 building blocks and try to make the elephant throw up all the food by hitting the elephant... it was really a sad scene to see and we can't do anything.. I guess the mahouts are going to take those food back to sell again... and they must teach the elephant how to keep the food in the mouth when people feed them, so after that day I've decided not to feed them again..
So they are some of the elephants foundations in Thailand if you really wish to help them and make sure they are well treated...www.asian-elephant.orgwww.thailandelephant.org