Species: Venemous snakes, near extinct crocodiles and former logging elephants
What’s it about: Safe way to see wildlife, although some institutes create a cruel circus spectacle
Bizzare: Crocodile can live 18 months without food
History: Healing blood, slaying virgins and revered royalty
The jungles of South-East Asia are notorious for its inhabitants. How would you like to meet a 20 foot long python, or perhaps a poisonous spider or scorpion, or even a tiger or rhino?
Of course, if you’d prefer to see Thailand’s animals in close proximity without the danger element, you can always visit one of the many animal farms. Eco-tourism is making a strong impact in Thailand and strict restrictions are being placed on such institutions to ensure no animals are unnecessarily harmed – in fact, the motivation behind most of them is the preservation of endangered species.
There are about 163 species of snake in Thailand alone, 85 of which are venomous.
Snakes are well-known carnivores, mostly swallowing their victims whole whilst still alive. King cobras even eat other snakes.
larger snakes such as pythons are found in jungles, while the smaller ones spread out to the grasslands.
Did you know?
The largest snake ever discovered was a 32 foot long python, found in the jungles of Thailand.
The blood of a snake is held to have healing and strengthening properties in many Asian countries, and snake’s blood rice wine is a popular beverage in many areas!
There are several snake farms throughout Thailand, but the most famous is the Queen Saovapha Memorial Snake Farm, situated within the Thai Red Cross centre, Bangkok. The principal aim of this institute is to milk the snakes of their venom in order to produce quantities of anti snakebite serum, but it now runs a sideline in tourist shows. Audiences are invited to watch an informative slideshow, observe the milking process, and handle the snakes themselves. Entrance is 70B ($1.50).
The Thai elephant has reduced in numbers from over 100,000 at the turn of the century to just 3-4,000 today, and is classified as an endangered species.
Elephants are herbivores and will consume about 2-300kg of food per day, and 150 litres of water.
Copulation generally lasts only 20 seconds, but females carry their young for 22 months. And us women think we’re hard done by!
Did you know?
Elephants may be heavy animals, but they can run up to 15 miles per hour.
The elephant is the national symbol of Thailand, and the rare white elephant is revered as a royal animal.
Elephant Sanctuaries/ Training Centres
Logging is now banned in Thailand, therefore there is less need for elephant training centres. Those that still exist, such as the one in Thung Kwian, near Lampang, are geared more towards tourist entertainment than work. Visitors can expect to see elephants walking, bathing and stacking logs in procession, and can also take the offer of a ride into the jungle on the back of one of these gentle creatures. Beware of sea-sickness!
30 miles north of Chiang Mai lies the Elephant Nature Park, originally set up to provide elephants with better living conditions than they received as working elephants. It is now committed to the preservation of the species, as well as the restoration of their natural habitat, the rainforest. Visitors are welcome, with the emphasis being on education and interaction rather than shows.
There are three types of crocodile in Thailand, two of which are believed to be extinct in the wild. Of the third, the Siamese crocodile, there are less than 200 left in the world.
Fierce carnivores! However, their meals are few and far between.
The female will lay 20-40 eggs each year about 40-50 days after mating. Incubation will take about 70-80 days.
Did you know?
Crocodiles can go up to 18 months without eating.
Crocodiles have always been feared as man-eating monsters in Thailand. The most infamous legend tells of Chalawan, the crocodile king and symbol of Phichit province, who regularly dined on young virgins!
Originally, crocodile farms in Thailand were partly responsible for the decline in numbers of crocodiles in Thailand. However, with the promotion of eco-tourism in the country, the farms are now considered to help conserve this formidable carnivore of the water. Crocodile bags, belts, shoes and such are still popular tourist buys, but the farms insist that their animals are treated humanely and not simply raised for the purpose of selling such products. With the shortage of crocodiles in Thailand today, visiting one of these farms may well be your only chance of seeing one, and it will certainly be your safest!
Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm and Zoo, 6 miles outside of Bangkok, boasts the world’s largest crocodile in captivity, about 20 ft in length and 1114kg in weight. Not only do you get the chance to see thousands of crocodiles here (including within the context of a wrestling show), but elephant and camel rides are also offered for an extra fee.
Thailand Guidebook: Bangkok Snake Farm
Further information on Bangkok’s snake farm.
Snakes in Thailand
Information on several species of snake found in Thailand, collated by a local snake-lover.
Thailand Life: Crocodile Farm
Part of Nattawud Daoruang’s personal website, detailing his experiences at the crocodile farm mentioned above.
Elephant Nature Park
Official website for the Elephant park and conservation project mentioned above.
The Thai Elephant – Symbol of a Nation
Article on the traditional role of the elephant in Thai society and legend.
main image: Million stones park and crocodile farm in Pattaya Thailand in May 2014 by Ruslik0
By Rowena Forbes