The Chiang Mai Zoo successfully breed their first Panda cub last month, which has attracted the attention–and donations–from Thais. Unfortunately, that has left little room for Thailand’s endangered national symbol, the Thai Asian Elephant. In order to compete, the staff at the Ayutthaya Elephant Kraal dressed up the elephants to look like pandas and paraded them before school children.
For more information read the LA Times Unleashed blog at: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/unleashed/2009/06/thailands-elephants-are-black-and-white-and-mad-all-over-as-public-interest-shifts-to-new-panda-cub.html
Soraida Salwala, the founder of the Friends of the Asian Elephant and featured in The Eyes of Thailand documentary film, sent Windy Borman the following reaction via email:
The camp that paints live elephants as panda as a so-called way to protest, but I do not think so because they are involved in urban elephants, trading elephants, exporting them out, exploiting them in circuses. We have doubts over many conservation groups that claim their work are for conservation purposes.
I hope you could read Thai, there are a lot of comments over this and most are with FAE.
If these panda elephants were made from other materials as cartoon, boards, paper, plaster or whatever, FAE would not raise our voice.
Elephants are Thailand’s symbol, by making fun of them as if they are clowns in circuses cannot be accepted.
FAE has been fighting for almost seventeen years to raise awareness and seek our government’s involvement.
We remain firm that the Thai government should be attentive to Thai elephants as China does to her pandas. However, it is improper to make fun of Thai elephants. They should have had genuine sincerity in solving the problems of Thai elephants since their camps and those related to these people are the ones creating more problems and earn income by exploiting them.
Friends of the Asian Elephant