Thai National Elephant Day

Thailand
13 March 2022

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Thai National Elephant Day

Thai National Elephant Day, or Wan Chang Thai, is held in honor of the Kingdom’s national animal. Throughout history, the gentle giants have long been intertwined with the Thai way of life, playing a significant role in transportation, labor, and even war.

Established by the government in 1988, Thailand’s National Elephant Day is celebrated every year on March 13th. To honor the animal and its relationship with the Thai people, the holiday aims to raise awareness of elephant conservation and protection. Common activities include elephant buffets and traditional blessing ceremonies.

Historical role and significance

Royal Thai Navy flag with albino elephant in the middle
Royal Thai Navy flag with albino elephant in the middle. Source: pkul / Shutterstock.com

Since the Kingdom’s early days, elephants have been regarded as a loyal companion to Thai people. Due to their immense strength and endurance, elephants were also used as mounts in times of war. In fact, one of Thailand’s most famous legends is that of King Naresuan’s elephant duel, which inspired the animated movie “Khan Kluay” or “The Blue Elephant.”

Albino elephants or chang phueak were considered as the monarch’s loyal companion and a sacred symbol of royalty. The white elephant has featured on several previous national flags of Thailand as well as the current official seal of Bangkok.

Elephant sanctuaries

An elephant enjoying bathing
Source: Independent birds / Shutterstock.com

Unfortunately, the majestic animals have also become a major draw for tourists, which can lead to exploitation. It’s important that visitors look for places that treat elephants with respect. Notable elephant sanctuaries that offers ethical experiences include:

Founded by Saengduean Chailert, the Elephant Nature Park is currently one of the most well-known rescue and rehabilitation centers in Chiang Mai, located in northern Thailand. Visitors are encouraged to feed, bathe, and enjoy a stunning forest walk with the 103 elephants living at the sanctuary.

Shelter to thousands of wild animals, Wild Friends Foundation is widely recognized for rescuing animals and providing an environment close to nature. Their WFFT Elephant Refuge project is renowned as Asia’s first completely chain-free elephant sanctuary, providing up to 18 hectares of land for them to roam.

Endorsed by National Geographic and World Animal Protection, Phuket Elephant Sanctuary prides itself on pioneering ethical elephant tourism on the island. With their six-meter-tall canopy walkway, visitors can experience elephant tourism from a height that allows for safe, respectful observation and interaction with the elephants.

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