Published: Friday 28 February 1997

A problem of mammoth proportions has besotted the Thai capital as well as Phuket, Pattaya and Chiangmai. Nearly 100 elephants from the northeastern part of the country have recently been brought to these areas to enable their mahouts earn a livelihood.

While there are dangers posed by a rampaging elephant on the streets, almost everyone overlooks the health aspect of the pachyderms. Charoen Wairawatchanakaen from the Centre of Elephant Studies in Surin said, "Elephants need space and quiet, they need an area where they can feel either alone or with their families or step through the forest which they love. And a diet of only bananas is hardly a balanced one."

Although urban Bangkok's pall of carbon monoxide seemingly does not affect these creatures, there are concerns that heat and noise pollution do irreparable harm to them. Charoen claims that elephants "have an infrasound, a kind of innate mechanism which is thrown off-balance in an alien environment". The Thai Airways is the concern to have devised a long-term plan to improve the elephant's original environment in Surin.

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