National Park Considers Closing Down To Tourists Each Year After Elephants Come Back

On a normal year, it is not uncommon to see heavy crowds of human traffic visiting the Khao Yai National Park. Since the park has been closed to the public since March, however, it is seeing fewer people than it has since its opening in 1962.

Now that the park is closed to the public, the 300 elephants in the park are roaming freely and entering areas that they would typically avoid. There are also other animals, including the guar and Asian black bear that are emerging from the wilderness. According to a vet at the park, Chananya Kanchanasaka, it is exciting that the park is beginning to “restore itself.”

Humans have truly made an impact on the way that wildlife acts within the park. One of the problems has been the development of roads. Elephants use trails in order to move about and access the river but roads can cut across the paths. As a result, many animals would adapt their typical route near a cliff or areas that might flash flood. Unfortunately, some elephants have drowned as a result.

Last October, there was a mass drowning at the park that took place when a baby elephant slipped near a waterfall. That area, known as Haew Narok (Hell’s Fall), is where it started and other members of the herd tried to save the little one and ended up drowning.

Six elephants were located at first but eventually, there were 11 that were found to have died. The last record of mass elephant deaths was 8, when they fell to their deaths from the same waterfall in 1992.

A well-known Thai conservationist, Kemthong Morat, wanted the world to know about the elephants so they started a hunger strike. They told the New York Times:

“The deaths of the 11 elephants were preventable and the mismanagement by the park was preventable.

They seem to forget that the national park’s purpose is for research and conservation. Khao Yai’s big tourism revenues made them forget the main purpose of the park.”

Even though wildlife is doing well in the park, vet Chananya is looking at it more along the lines of how the country should enjoy the park without intruding on the wildlife.

She said: “We should consider if we should close down the park every year. Nature can restore itself to its fullest.”

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