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Searching for new habitats for growing elephant population

Thailand’s success in protecting its elephant population has created a dilemma for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, which needs to find new habitats as the number of elephants has begun to expand. 
 
The elephant is a national symbol for Thais, and more than a century ago, as many as 100,000 of the beasts roamed the country’s forests.  But as agriculture expanded and industrialization gathered pace, forest cover disappeared taking with it the elephants’ natural habitat.  Today, only about 2,000 are living the wild.
 
Nonetheless, Deputy Permanent-Secretary for the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment Suphot Tovichakchaikul said last week that the ministry was concerned about a rise in wild elephant numbers in some forests. Overpopulation had now become a problem.
 
As their numbers have grown, the elephants are competing with one another for the limited food resources in the affected forests.  Consequently, they roam further in search of food and wander into developed areas, putting them in potential conflict with people.  In recent years, some farmers, angry over elephants eating their crops have poisoned the animals.
 
Suphot said that overpopulation is most pronounced in national parks, and the wild elephant populations in parks are growing by about 10 percent each year. Some of the most affected national parks include Khao Ang Rue Nai Wildlife Sanctuary in Chachoengsao, Khao Yai National Park in Nakhon Ratchasima, Salakpra Wildlife Sanctuary in Kanchanaburi and Kuiburi National Park in Prachuap Khiri Khan.
 
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Dapong Rattanasuwan said preventing confrontations between elephants and the public is a priority, especially in Khao Ang Rue Nai Wildlife Sanctuary.
 
Ministry officials are racing to find new forest homes for wild elephants in forests that are overpopulated, especially in the four forest national parks.  Studies are underway and when completed, those elephants would be moved to more spacious forests.
 
Suphot said the moving process would not be easy and other measures to manage elephant overpopulation would be considered.  Conservationists have said officials should be cautious about elephant relocation, as elephants might not adapt well to new surroundings.  But moving the elephants is a must, Suphot said, as overpopulation is damaging the environment.
 
See the original article at Thailand e-Focus

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