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Blessings and buffets for elephants on their day

Elephants at the Ayutthaya Elephant Palace enjoy a banquet of fruit and veg on National Elephant Day, Monday. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

Elephant kraals across the country held merit-making ceremonies and organised buffet feasts for their animals on Monday, which was Thai Elephant Day.

At Lampang in the North, the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre in Hang Chat district dressed up 40 elephants to offer alms to nine monks, who blessed them with holy water in return.

Residents of the district took part in the gala day, organising a buffet for the beasts with Thai and foreign visitors also there to witness and enjoy the big event.

The centre's director Sawas Tuangsatharadee said they will continue to follow the guidance of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who had suggested that the centre conserve elephants for future generations.

A similar celebration was held at the Ayutthaya Elephant Palace, where 60 elephants were praised and spinkled with holy water by Phra Khru Chantarawimol, a famous monk in the province, before tucking into their banquet of fruit and vegetables.

The famous Elephant Village in Tha Tum district of Surin held a bai si ceremony for more than 100 of the animals before allowing attendants to feed them with fruit, including a lot of bananas and pineapples.

The government has designated March 13 as Thai Elephant Day since 1998, to raise awareness of the animal's importance. The white elephant has been the national symbol since 1963. Prior to that, it symbolised the king.

There are an estimated 2,700 "domesticated"  elephants in the country, a drop from about 100,000 in 1850, according to the Elephant Conservation Centre in Surin. The number of elephants in the wild is between 3,000 and 3,500, according to the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plan Conservation.

The department said on Monday the number of wild elephants is increasing in several wildlife and conservation sanctuaries, including Khao Ang Runai wildlife sanctuary, Phu Luang, Kui Buri and Khao Yai.

An elephant buffet in Ayutthaya. (Reuters video)

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