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Meet The National Animal of Thailand, The Asian Elephant

Have you ever wandered through the lush forests of Thailand and heard the gentle rumble of the mighty Asian Elephant? These colossal creatures are the heartbeat of Thailand, holding profound significance to its people and culture.

In the land of breathtaking temples and vibrant markets, the elephant isn’t just an animal; it’s a symbol of peace, power, and good fortune.

Did you know that the elephant even found its way to Thailand’s national flag in the early 1900s? Stick around, there’s a lot more to learn about these gentle giants and their extraordinary journey through Thailand’s rich history and tradition.

Quick Info About The Asian Elephant

Scientific Name:Elephas maximus
Average Size:Height at the shoulder: 6.6-9.8 ft (2-3 m)
Average Weight:4,500-11,000 lbs (2,041-4,990 kg)
Average Lifespan:48-80 years
Geographical Range:Southeast Asia, including Laos, India, and Sri Lanka
Habitat:Tropical forests, grasslands, and swamps
Conservation Status:Endangered (IUCN Red List)

Meet The Asian Elephant, National Animal of Thailand

The Asian Elephant, with its colossal presence and gentle eyes, is a symbol of majesty and wisdom in Thailand. Elephants are huge, yes, but have you noticed their intricate, wrinkled skin and large, floppy ears that seem to wave in sync with the gentle breeze of the Thai forests? And their trunks! Those are the versatile hands and an extra nose, capable of delicate tasks and powerful feats.

Male Asian Elephants, also known as bulls, are generally larger and have longer tusks than their female counterparts. The females, or cows, usually lead the herds, guiding their clans through the dense forests and open grasslands.

So where does the mighty Asian Elephant fit in Thailand’s ecosystem? These creatures are primarily herbivores, feasting on a diet of grass, bark, and fruits, acting as the great movers and shakers of the forest, shaping the landscapes they traverse.

Their extensive feeding helps in seed dispersal, giving life to the diverse flora of the Thai forests. The elephants don’t have natural predators per se, but sadly, human activities and habitat loss pose significant threats to them.

Thailand Asian Elephant

Where Does The Asian Elephant Live?

The Asian Elephant is a versatile inhabitant, adapting to a range of environments from the dense, lush forests to the warm, sun-kissed grasslands of Thailand. They thrive in tropical climates, where abundant water and diverse vegetation feed their substantial diets.

Their home is not just limited to Thailand, though. They are the wanderers of Southeast Asia, traversing through India, Nepal, and Bhutan, each landscape adding a new rhythm to their harmonious existence.

In each of these places, the Asian Elephant plays a crucial role in maintaining ecological balance, their habits and routines contribute to the balance of life in these diverse ecosystems. They’re not just the carriers of ancient tales and symbols; they’re the keepers of the forest, the guardians of the land’s natural balance.

Why and When Did The Asian Elephant Become The National Animal of Thailand?

Thailand and the Asian Elephant share a bond woven through the threads of history, culture, religion, and even the battlefield. Proclaimed one of the national symbols on 26 October 2001, the elephant’s association with the land is ancient, a living reminder of the country’s rich biodiversity.

But why the elephant, you might ask? Well, elephants, especially the rare white ones, have been revered in Thailand due to their sacred symbolism and close association with royalty. They represent strength, royalty, and moral authority.

The more white elephants a king possessed, the greater his perceived power and morality were. Elephants also symbolize good fortune, and many locals believe passing underneath the body of an elephant can bring prosperity and luck!

The Asian Elephant’s service to Thailand is immense, from their significant role in wars, their guardianship in religious contexts, to their contributions to transport and agriculture. From the fifteenth century, their size and strength were harnessed for battle and labor, aiding in the very shaping of Thailand’s landscape and development.

However, this close bond has not been without its strains. The elephants’ role in the logging industry led to substantial habitat destruction, stripping Thailand’s forest cover to a fraction of its original size.

These conflicts between conservation and economic activities sparked debates and eventually led to logging bans, highlighting the urgent need for conservation efforts for these majestic creatures.

Thailand Asian Elephant

Where is The Asian Elephant Featured in Thailand?

The Asian Elephant, once prominently featured on the Siamese flag until the early 1900s, continues to hold symbolic significance in modern Thailand. It’s not just an animal; it’s a symbol, an emblem representing the country’s essence.

The elephants, especially the revered white ones, were integral to royal ceremonies and duties, becoming synonymous with royal authority and power. They are celebrated annually on the 13th of March, recognized as National Thai Elephant Day or Chang Thai Day, celebrating their cultural, historical, and ecological importance to the land of smiles.

While not featured on currency or named after, their images are often seen in art, literature, and festivities like the renowned Surin Elephant Round-Up festival, where they are celebrated with great pomp and joy.

Names of The Asian Elephant

The Asian Elephant, known scientifically as Elephas maximus, has several names that resonate with the local communities and regions it inhabits. It is sometimes referred to as Thai Elephant.

In Thailand, the elephant is commonly referred to as “Chang,” a term imbued with respect and affection. Throughout different countries and regions, this majestic creature is called by various names, reflecting the diverse cultures and languages that hold it in high regard. 

Is The Asian Elephant Endangered?

Unfortunately, the Asian Elephant is indeed endangered, with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) ringing the alarm on their declining populations. Only 3,000 to 4,000 remain in Thailand, half of them in the wild, a stark contrast to the at least 100,000 that existed around a century ago.

The threats they face are multi-faceted, including loss of habitat due to illegal logging and human encroachment, human-wildlife conflict, and poaching. Their past service in the logging industry ironically contributed to their current endangered status by significantly depleting their natural habitats.

However, hope is not lost. There are concerted conservation efforts aimed at preserving these gentle giants. Protected areas are being established, and community-based conservation initiatives are being promoted, involving the local populace in the protection and conservation of the elephants.

These strategies are not only helping in the conservation of the elephants but are also a testament to the human spirit’s resilience and our ability to correct our past mistakes.

Thailand Asian Elephant

Interesting Facts About The Asian Elephant

  1. Intelligence: Elephants are known for their incredible intelligence and are considered to be on par with humans in terms of mental capabilities. They can follow commands and cooperate with humans, embodying the saying, “an elephant never forgets.”
  2. Symbolism: In Thailand, elephants are regarded as a symbol of good luck and fortune, and some people pay to pass underneath an elephant’s body in the belief it will bring them prosperity.
  3. Cultural Celebration: The Surin Elephant Round-Up is a significant festival in Thailand held annually to celebrate the cultural and historical significance of elephants, featuring various activities and performances by elephants.
  4. Guardians of Buddha: Elephants are considered sacred and are often depicted as guardians of Buddha, representing commitment, strength, and responsibility in Buddhist iconography.
  5. Versatility: Asian Elephants have a versatile diet, consuming a wide range of plants, fruits, and vegetation, helping in seed dispersal and contributing to the balance of their ecosystems.

Other Beautiful Animals Native To Thailand

  • Siamese Fighting Fish (Betta splendens): Known for their vibrant colors and long, flowing fins, these fish are a popular aquarium pet and hold a special place in Thai culture, symbolizing power and bravery.
  • Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa): This elusive and beautifully spotted cat thrives in the dense forests of Thailand, symbolizing mystery and agility. It’s renowned for its ability to adapt to various habitats and is often considered a symbol of adaptability and versatility.
  • Malayan Tapir (Tapirus indicus): With its distinctive black and white coloration, the Malayan Tapir is a unique sight in Thailand’s forests. This herbivore represents resilience and strength, often navigating through life with a quiet, unassuming demeanor.
  • Gibbon (Family: Hylobatidae): The acrobatic and vocal gibbons are a symbol of freedom and unity in Thailand’s forests, their brachiating movements and harmonious family units echoing the values of community and cooperation.
  • Hornbill (Family: Bucerotidae): The striking hornbills, with their impressive bills and resonant calls, symbolize clear communication and foresight in Thai culture. Their presence adds a distinctive charm to the lush canopies of Thailand.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the Asian Elephant the National Animal of Thailand?

The Asian Elephant is the national animal of Thailand due to its immense contribution to Thailand’s history, culture, religion, agriculture, tourism, and logging. It is regarded as an auspicious symbol, representing good luck and fortune in the country’s traditions.

How many Asian Elephants are left in Thailand?

Currently, there are approximately 3,000 to 4,000 Asian Elephants left in Thailand, with around half of them living in the wild.

Is it true that Asian Elephants were used in wars?

Yes, Asian Elephants were historically used in battles due to their size and strength, charging at speeds of 25 kilometres per hour, making them an intimidating force on the battlefield against enemies.

Can Asian Elephants be found outside of Thailand?

Yes, apart from Thailand, Asian Elephants are also native to other countries in the region, including India, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia, each hosting diverse elephant populations within their borders.

Is the Clouded Leopard only found in Thailand?

No, the Clouded Leopard is not exclusive to Thailand and can be found in other parts of Southeast Asia as well, including the Himalayan foothills, and China, although it is one of the beautiful animals native to Thailand.

Other National Symbols of Thailand

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