The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation is organizing a week-long Thai Elephant Day celebration from 9 to 15 March 2013, coinciding with the 16th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, known in short as CITES CoP16.
CITES CoP16 is taking place at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center in Bangkok between 3 and 14 March, with the participation of ministers and high-level government representatives from over 30 countries.
The celebration of Thai Elephant Day 2013 is being held at Queen Sirikit Park near Chatuchak weekend market in Bangkok. Activities include seminars and exhibitions, all aimed at heightening public awareness of the need for preservation of Thai elephants, to protect them from extinction.
Back in 1963, the Royal Forest Department on 13 March agreed to designate the white elephant as the national animal of Thailand. White elephants are rare and have special traits. According to ancient Thai beliefs, the more white elephants found in a king’s reign, the more glorious and prosperous his reign will be. It is also a common belief that a white elephant brings good luck. For a period of time, the national flag of Thailand displayed a white elephant to represent the country.
Aware of the importance of elephant conservation, the Asian Elephant Foundation of Thailand and related non-governmental organizations in 1998 proposed that there should be a special day for elephants in Thailand. The proposal was submitted to the Coordinating Subcommittee for the Conservation of Thai Elephants under the National Identity Board. The Coordination Committee decided to pick 13 March each year as Thai Elephant Day, based on the fact that the Royal Forest Department designated the white elephant as the national animal of Thailand on 13 March 1963.
In May 1998, the Cabinet approved the designation of 13 March as Thai Elephant Day every year, starting in 1999. The decision was aimed at raising and sustaining public awareness of the importance of elephants. It is also designed to promote public participation in elephant preservation.
The Deputy Director-General of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, Mr. Theerapat Prayurasiddhi, said that the destruction of food sources for elephants and the poaching of elephants pose a real threat to the survival of elephants in Thailand and other countries in Asia. The Department has come with measures to deal with the problem, based on the initiatives of Their Majesties the King and Queen.
For instance, he said, more food and water sources for wild elephants would be created. A fund has been set up to provide food for wild elephants in Thailand. The Department has required the registration of domestic elephants to protect elephants from being exploited and to prevent illegal ivory trade. Two royally initiated projects have been carried out, one on the rehabilitation of the elephant’s habitat and the other on the returning of elephants to nature.
Elephants hold a significant place in Thailand. They also form an important part of Thai culture and national symbols.