Monday, 10 October 2011

Floods affect Ayutthaya's eles

Just sparing a thought for my friends in Thailand, many of whom have already been affected by the worst floods in decades, and others who are preparing for the oncoming deluge.

Fifty-nine provinces across the country have been damaged in some way by floodwaters, with  23 million people affected, tens of thousands displaced, the region’s food bowl ravaged and 252 killed in the last month.

As Bangkok braces for the latest onslaught of floodwaters, the ancient capital of Ayutthaya continues to be swamped, with the whole province declared a disaster area. It’s bad enough that many of the historic cities historic monuments are waist-deep in water ... but even more concerning is the plight of the elephants at one of the city’s biggest attractions, the Royal Elephant Kraal.

While most of the elephants were moved to higher ground a month ago (when the first floods hit), there are still seven mothers and babies trapped at the Kraal, surrounded by a wall of water. According to Communications Director for the Elephant Stay program at the Kraal, Ewa Narkiewicz, the entrances to the compound have been blocked up with dirt, and everyone is praying this holds. There are a handful of people living up on the pavilion, doing what they can to care for the elephants trapped there, but the situation is dire as the waters continue to rise.

(Pic: The Royal Elephant Kraal during last year's flood, from

Built on an island at the confluence of the Lopburi, Pha Sak and Chao Phraya Rivers, Ayutthaya is of course no stranger to floods. Just this time last year, all the elephants from the Kraal had to be moved to higher ground, and the farmland where the elephants’ food is grown suffered severe flooding.

A similar situation also seems to be developing at the elephant village of Ta Klang in Surin, home to 200 elephants rescued from a life of begging on the streets. According to my friend John Roberts from the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, the Surin elephants and their mahouts face major foot shortages, with most of the rice paddies and elephant grazing grounds in Surin under water. For updates on the situation, check in at or

With loss of income and so much damage to the Kraal, Elephantstay will also need all the help it can get. Donations can be made through

PIC: One of the baby elephants born at the Royal Elephant Kraal during last year's floods. This little girl had to be evacuated just hours after birth, walking five kilometres to higher ground.

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