Published: Friday 15 March 1996

Elephants in Thailand were recently treated to a jumbo feast at the Elephant Conservation Centre in Lampang, 535 km north of Bangkok. It was an elephantine version of the Thai tradition of Thai khan toke, a meal at which diners share food from a common bowl. They gorged on more than 500 kg of sugarcane, pineapples, bamboo leaves and bananas. The 'elephant feeding fair' was held to highlight the plight of Thai elephants. The elephant in Thailand is a national icon and the royal emblem. But poaching has led to a decrease in their population. The number of domesticated elephants in Thailand at the turn of the century was 100,000, while countless others wandered in the wild. Currently, there are about 2,000 wild and 5,000 domesticated ones, and their numbers are decreasing at the rate of two to five per cent a year.

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