COVID is affecting not only us humans, but also our elephant friends. Because of the travel restrictions in place, getting into Thailand is not currently possible. This is having a massive impact on the tourist industry there.
Part of that impact is being felt by elephants, who have been part of Thai culture for eons. Elephants consume between 6 and 10 percent of their body weight daily, and it costs around US$18,000 to look after a single animal for a year. There are currently around 3800 humanly cared for elephant tourist camps. But the collapse of international tourism due to COVID-19 has reportedly forced at least 85 elephant camps in northern Thailand to close, bringing hardship to the elephants, and their human handlers.
A solution is to invite an elephant to your next Zoom call. Rates start at US$75 to bring elephants in on a Zoom video call for 10 minutes; for US$145, callers also get a three-minute Q&A session with elephant experts. It is the idea of Australian welfare charity the Human Elephant Learning Program Foundation (H-ELP) and the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF), a non-profit that was set up in cooperation with the Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp and Resort.
This idea of remote interaction with a local is along the same lines of un-travel Discover Live, which we wrote about recently. Having an experience of going to a faraway place without the air travel is something we feel will become a large part of the future of travel. Not taking away from actual travel, because meeting an elephant in person is a truly unforgettable experience, but an experience that runs parallel to it.
I have had the privilege of two highly memorable encounters with elephants — experiences that I will never forget. Having an elephant “smell” me, with its trunk acting as a vacuum hose over my entire body during a trip to Pakistan was amazing — utterly freaky, but once I got over it, magical. Then my new large friend and I got along swimmingly.
I’m wondering if we should invite an elephant to the next Happy Hour?