Published on August 4, 2009
Elephant Trekking and Tourism Sustainability in Khao Lak, Thailand
Asia Safari Khao Lak, Thailand Est. 2001 Elephant Trekking Zoo Orchid Garden Restaurant
Origins Elephants from Surin, in family since 1955 elephant roundup Trekking is a community tradition, brought to Khao Lak and taught to some village locals
Elephant situation Deforestation 60% to 20% in 50 years Disappearing populations In 100 years the number of wild elephants in Thailand dropped from 100,000 to 2,000 3,000 captive elephants in Thailand today Technology takes logging jobs away from captive elephants Government project to have 99 out of 300 of Bangkok street elephants and handlers protect national parks from poachers and illegal loggers
Elephants 12 Indian elephants, all female Average weight is 3 tons 3 month training period once 7 years old Restrictions: Pregnancy (after 1 year 2 mo.) Too young
Well Being Training “broken in” since birth, but questionable methods for trekking preparation Chain on leg Switch legs daily Do not walk elephants through water for toenails Hook + spikey metal ring Ear infection Vet every 2 months No deaths 4 45 min. treks (uphill) per day in high season
^ Day: chained under a large awning when not trekking > Night: chained in an uncovered hilly area
Resource Use Water 150 L/day/elephant From the river adjacent to the complex Food 300 kilos/day/elephant Pineapple, banana (take elephants up mountain to collect bananas), bamboo, coconut leaves, grass Bought out pineapple farm 5 km away
Waste Poop Runs into nearby stream Primarily grass due to lack of thorough digestion Ends up in ocean as nutrients for sea life (?) Water quality testing Compost Poop (from cleaning enclosure every day) and leftover pineapple stems and grass Fertilize fruit trees and rubber trees Sell fertilizer as supplementary income
Water Quality Test Waterfall pH: 5.0 -- acidic PO43-: 0.024 mg/L Creek pH: 4.5 -- acidic PO43-: 0.018 mg/L Runoff pH: 6.0 PO43-: 0.25 mg/L -- too high, promotes algae growth Ocean pH: 6.5 -- acidic for ocean PO43-: 0.00 mg/L
Course Mapping Rubber trees and processing facility Fruit trees
Trail Natural trail, widened by humans No trees were cut down Biodiversity Elephants scare away small animals “No squirrel no more”
Rubber Trees Artificially planted Supplementary income to buy pineapple Only small area of property Specific staff positions for rubber tree care 20 year life span Need to cut everything down and plow to replant Not sustainable
Asia Safari: Ecotourism? Surveyed community for business approval out of respect and “code” Owner’s main goals were to conserve nature and support locals Pairwise ranking Environmentally friendly = attractive to tourists Included in community How socio-ecologically sustainable is elephant trekking? What are the indicators of this sustainability?
Social Research “What is your motivation for coming on an elephant trek?” Adventure, Cost, Nature, Culture, Support Locals, Education 6 tourists of different backgrounds Pair-wise ranking Nature (4); Culture (1); Education (1) Shows company needs to sustain natural environment to keep customers Phuket vs Khao Lak Limitations: Confusing method! Low season Limited categories
Interviewed owner of Asia Safari with pair-wise ranking and anthropocentric/biocen-tric circles Most important for elephant trekking company? Conserve Nature (3), Support Locals (3), Elephant Well-Being (2), Make Profit (2) Integrates nature and community into his business Interviewed community members and their business is not affected by Asia Safari
Indicators of Sustainability Compost Organic garden Intergenerational skill Community involvement Elephants’ and Nature’s well being (debatable) Precautionary Principles More natural = more customers = sustainability both economically and environmentally
Part Deux: CBT/Homestay Ban Nam Sai May, Lue, Sai-Rung, Fiew, Babua Kenan Institute Asia from University of North Carolina CBT presentation Investigated what goes into starting a CBT program and what the benefits are Birthday Party English Lesson
CBT Benefits People Communities Tour Operators Tourists Environment Conservation Fund National Park More Sustainable than Hotel/Resort Profit Income for community and Tour Operators *Courtesy of Kenan Institute Asia
Homestay Ban Nam Sai built in 2007, free housing for tsunami victims Princess’s project We stayed in an entire house instead of within someone’s home Capacity for versatility Large groups or individuals Limitation for research Not enough time Schedule conflict
Ban Nam Sai Personal Story Interview with May Owned restaurant and home, destroyed by tsunami 3 family members died: Lue’s dad, 3 year old nephew and 13 year old niece May and family were out of town at a funeral CBT inspired by volunteers staying in tsunami victims homes Community decided they could make a business out of what they were doing We were 2nd guests Unsure of foreigners affect on community Naked people Drunk people
Success of Ban Nam Sai’s CBT Adequate accommodation Rooms not finished Great service Food Laundry Cleaning Transportation Close to beach Welcoming community Need more activities Need website and link to network of travel agencies UNC brochure 1 day out of a 14 day stay = success
Conclusions We experienced a fledgling CBT community and saw what goes into making it a reality We now know the origins, benefits and complications of CBT We learned that the resources are there for successful eco and community tourism to be successful but it is still getting off the ground Service provided to Asia Safari: suggest ways to improve sustainability Improve compost/waste disposal Overcrowding in zoo Service provided to homestay: guinea pigs for their homestay program Helped with brochure Feedback
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