Chang Yim-Smiling Elephant Project

Photo Courtesy of AP

Photo Courtesy of AP

The Chang Yim ( Smiling Elephant ) project was set up by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration to remove roaming elephants from Bangkok’s city streets and get them back to their natural enviroment or a close proximity thereof.  The BMA is taking aim at Bangkok’s mahout’s who drive these gentle beasts throughout the city to beg for coins and perform tricks for tourist dollars.

As you can see by the picture above city streets are no place for an elephant of any size. The baby elephant above was being walked through the city of Rayong when it stepped into an open manhole. fortunately the baby elephant was rescued,  without harm,  after a few hours and with the help of a bulldozer to dig a pit big enough for him to walk out of.  Unfortunately the Baby elephant gets to go back to it’s life of slavery begging for money.

The Chang Yim project in Bangkok aims to remove all elephants from Bangkok within one year. They made their first big step yesterday with the purchase of Pang Bua Kham, a 30 year old elephant that is blind in one eye. Pang Bua Kham’s owner, a Bangkok mahout, was paid 300,000 baht ( roughly $8000.00 ) for the elephant who will be transported to the National Elephant Institute in Lampang where it will live out the rest of it’s days in peaceful surroundings. The hope is that some elephants, at least the younger ones, can be re-introduced to their natural habitats while the older elephants will be found suitable homes at places like the National Elephant Institute.

The BMA believes that most of Bangkok’s roaming elephants can be purchased from their owners for 300,000 baht each and to this end they have set up a bank account with Krungthai bank to accept donations for this cause. In a little over a week the bank account has already received 800,000 baht ( roughly $24000.00 ). Donations can be made to Krungthai Bank account No.088-0-03418-1.

This of course is a small solution to a very large problem. Elephants are used in every major city by their owners to make a living through tourist dollars. Hopefully the BMA efforts in Bangkok will be successful and catch on in other cities so this problem can finally be one of the past. Until that day there will be more stories like the Baby elephant story above and sadder ones like the elephant that died last week in Chonburi province when it walked into a low hanging live electric line and was electrocuted.

If you plan on visiting Thailand and run into these gentle giants on the streets of Bangkok or any other city please resist the urge to pay for the experience of feeding them or taking a picture with them. They are beautiful creatures but there are much more humane and suitable places where you can get to know the elephants of Thailand better.

sig1 Chang Yim Smiling Elephant Project

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Comment by CatherineNo Gravatar
2009-08-10 22:44:19

Thank you for posting about The Chang Yim project. This is the first time I’ve heard of it. I know they’ve tried to get elephants off the streets of BKK, but like everything else, it is not working. Hopefully this will.

That poor baby elephant! He looks so very sad.

When I’m forced to walk around the elephants on Suk, I wonder just how dangerous it is for elephants and pedestrians alike.

Elephants don’t walk, they sway from side by side. They can sway right into those trying to walk around them.

And with the crowded sidewalks of Thailand, how do they manage? People are cooking food right there in the way, and elephants won’t know to avoid bumping into the cookers.
Catherine´s last blog ..The Nation Weblog: Of Things Thai My ComLuv Profile

Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-08-10 22:56:57

Cat, Apparently that’s exactly how the baby elephant ended up in the manhole he was walking around it and his back end swayed right into the hole.

I think this project will work well in Bangkok but they really need to make this a national campaign.

I couldn’t imagine the fight that would break out between food cookers and mahouts if an elephant knocked over a food stall…

Comment by MartynNo Gravatar
2009-08-11 00:44:26

If the Chang Yim project has any leaflets or informational brochures to hand out then your top photo on the front of them will ram there message home. I pray the project succeeds because that is a very sad photo of a beautiful animal.
Martyn´s last blog ..Thailand At Work – Village Noodles My ComLuv Profile

Comment by MikeNo Gravatar
2009-08-11 01:58:03

Talen, I almost blogged about this today having seen the photograph in the UK press. Perhaps international coverage will also help put pressure on the trade and use of these beautiful wild beasts.

They should be in the rain forest (whats left of them) not on the streets of Bangkok. Sadly, as you point out, in a lot of cases tourists are in a way responsible for them being in BKK and other cities.
Mike´s last blog ..Tattooed in Thailand. My ComLuv Profile

Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-08-11 12:08:47

Martyn, That picture would make a very compelling leaflet.

Mike, International coverage would be good but the best thing is the money being donated. I really wish they would set up a proper donation system so we could place something on websites.

Comment by Anonymous Subscribed to comments via email
2009-08-20 08:19:16

Hi Talen,

I’m writing from Elephant News. We run a weekly round-up of elephant conservation news and are this week looking at the new regulations being brought in to tackle Bangkok’s mahout problem.

I am aware that the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration have tried on a number of occasions previously to tackle this problem, but have failed due to a lack of authority to seize the elephants, a lack of places to house the freed animals and the disbandment of units set up to take action against the mahouts.

Are you confident that they will have more success this time with their Smiling Elephants project? And if so, why?

Also, why do you think it is important for the elephants to be registered at birth rather than at eight year’s old as they are currently?

Kind regards,

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