Angry elephants are terrorizing people in Thailand with a rise in fatal attacks as locals began arming themselves with “ping pong” bombs to scare away the animals.
Elephant numbers in Thailand are increasing following repopulation efforts, but as their natural habitat is simultaneously shrinking, they are forced to live closer to villagers, leading to more than 90 fatal encounters in the east of the country since 2018.
Now local farmers are using homemade “ping pong” bombs, purchased at street markets, to defend their crops – and themselves – against marauding animals, hoping to scare away the mammals with the mini-explosives.
Unfortunately, the ping pong bombs seemed to have the opposite effect and make elephant encounters even more dangerous for the villagers.
‘They grab you, slam you against a tree, sometimes they make sure you’re dead by stepping on you or using their fangs. They can play with their bodies like dolls,” explained Taan Wannagul, a researcher at the Eastern Elephant Education Center. Telegraph.
Angry elephants are terrorizing people in Thailand with a rise in fatal attacks as locals began arming themselves with ‘ping pong’ bombs to scare away the growing number of animals (file image of an elephant in Khao National Park Yai in Thailand)
Now local farmers are using homemade “ping pong” bombs (pictured), purchased at street markets, to defend their crops (and themselves) against marauding animals, hoping to scare away the mammals with the mini-explosives.
An aggressive wild elephant rammed a pickup truck and overturned it about 80 miles east of the capital, Bangkok, in rural Chachoengsao province, Thailand, in March 2023.
“Naturally, elephants don’t attack, but people throw ‘ping pong bombs’ and make loud noises to scare away the elephants,” he added. ‘Now [the elephants have] become more aggressive.”
A 73-year-old farmer named Pae Pakdee was killed by an elephant in a savage attack, during which a 10-foot-tall male elephant nicknamed “Yellow” tore his limbs from his body.
He was found by his wife, Boonsri Pakdee, 69, who said her “heart broke” that day as gruesome images revealed the “shattered mess” her beloved husband had left behind.
Boonsri has lost faith that the villagers can live peacefully alongside the elephants, calling it “impossible.”
Elephants are considered sacred in Thailand and many believe that the Thai government puts the life of the animal before that of people, as the fine (and possible prison sentence) is much higher for killing an elephant than the compensation given to the animals. families of those killed by the mammal.
A farmer from the Chachoengsao region, 130 kilometers east of the capital, Bangkok, said that if she and other villagers see an elephant, they hide.
Locals have resorted to using ping pong bombs (small colored plastic balls with a fuse) to scare them away.
Despite their small size, self-made explosives are powerful enough to blow off a finger if held for too long.
One of the initiatives to combat the growing problem of elephants decimating crops and even attacking locals is that local rangers patrolling wildlife parks are now also tracking elephants.
Ping pong bombs seized by local police in Thailand
A wild elephant stops a car on a road in Khao Yai National Park in Thailand’s Nakhon Ratchasima province on October 29, 2019.
A greedy wild elephant avoided the jungle leaves and instead stopped passing trucks to steal sugar cane. The 35-year-old jumbo jet, nicknamed ‘Fatty’ by locals, emerged from the forest on a road in Chachoengsao province, Thailand, on December 29, 2022.
They begin their shifts by purchasing ping pong bombs from street stalls, before tracking elephants and hoping to push them back to the nearby nature reserve in Chachoengsao by setting off the explosives or firing warning shots from firearms.
While they had limited success, these groups are simply not large enough and do not have the resources to cover a vast area.
One ranger said that while he and his colleagues were already doing their best to track the elephants, there have been cases of villagers taking matters into their own hands.
Meanwhile, the research center’s Wannagul has installed dozens of cameras with motion sensors that will provide live information on the movement of nearby elephants after attempts to keep the mammals inside the national park with metal fencing failed.
The data will be used in a local “war room” opening in October, which was created by Wannagul in collaboration with the Thai government.
The researcher said population control may be necessary as elephant numbers are growing rapidly, eight percent a year.
Another important measure, he added, is to ensure that elephant habitat is not further reduced.
The number of Asian elephants in the wild is now around 4,000 after the government began protecting Thailand’s remaining forests and wildlife reserves, as well as enforcing anti-poaching laws.
Conservationists have praised measures taken to protect elephants after the population fell from around 100,000 to fewer than 3,000 in a hundred years.
But they admitted that in the eastern provinces, where elephants are settling closer to villages, this “is causing enormous problems” because the animals are running out of food and space in the shrinking forest areas and in the small national parks.
Mammals eat about 200 kg of food per day. While they have to walk and look for this food if they stay in the forest, in human areas it is readily available and is “like a big buffet” for them.
This causes huge problems for farmers, such as those north of the Khao Ang Rue Nai Wildlife Reserve, who say they have lost most of their crops to marauding elephants; some even their annual income.
Since the compensation provided by the government is limited, many are forced to take out loans to get back on their feet.