This commemorative day takes place every year on 13 March since it was first given Thai Government approval in 1998. The aim of the day is to draw attention to one of the most remarkable species on our planet, the elephant which is the national animal of Thailand and plays an important part in culture, religion and tradition.
In the past, Thailand’s forests teemed with a vast wild population of elephants. Sadly like many animal species living on our planet they have suffered from the affects of habitat destruction and environmental pressures have taken their toll resulting in drastically declined number of elephants, but they still hold a very special place in the hearts of the Thai people and many people around the globe.
National Thai Elephant Day draws the public’s attention to elephants wherever they are, be it in a zoo, rescue centre or the remaining wild elephants. Here at Taronga we are very proud of our herd which arrived from Thailand in 2006 to begin the first Asian Elephant Breeding Program in Australasia for their species.
Since then we have welcomed three calves at Taronga and they have all been given traditional Thai names to recognise their heritage and the role the Thai Government has had in helping Taronga and Melbourne Zoos establish a self-sustaining Asian Elephant breeding herd in Australia.
‘Luk Chai’ a young male whose name means ‘son’ was the first elephant to be born in Australia on July 4, 2009. His birth was followed up by our miracle calf ‘Pathi Harn’ who recently celebrated his first birthday on March 10, whilst our first female calf, ‘Tukta’ whose name means ‘doll’ was welcomed into the world on 2 November, 2010. Under the watchful eyes of their protective mothers, aunts and their devoted keepers they continue to go from strength to strength and delight zoo visitors with their daily antics, play wrestles and help to draw attention to the plight of their species.
One of the more creative ways Thai Elephant Day is celebrated is by elephants doing paintings which are auctioned off for elephant conservation. On 19 February 2005, the most expensive painting by an elephant sold for a staggering US$39,000!
Not to be out done, Taronga’s matriarch ‘Porntip’ recently picked up the paintbrushes, let her creative juices flow and produced a very colourful master piece, with the help and encouragement from her keepers. This artwork will be auctioned off at a future Zoo fundraiser; there would be very few people who can say they have a piece of art created by an elephant!
Thank you to all the Zoo visitors and the Australian community who have embraced and taken our herd of elephants into their hearts, most importantly, happy Thai Elephant Day to all the elephants still roaming the world.