SURIN, Thailand, Sept 9 (Reuters) – In the northeastern village of Ban Ta Klang in Thailand, Siriporn Sapmak starts her day by doing a livestream of her two elephants on social media to raise money to survive.
The 23-year old, who has been taking care of elephants since she was in school, points her phone to the animals as she feeds them bananas and they walk around the back of her family home.
Siriporn says she can raise about 1,000 baht ($27.46) of donations from several hours of livestreaming on TikTok and YouTube but that is only enough to feed her two elephants for one day.
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It is a new – and insecure – source of income for the family, which before the pandemic earned money by doing elephant shows in the Thai city of Pattaya. They top up their earnings by selling fruit.
Like thousands of other elephant owners around the country, the Sapmak family had to return to their home village as the pandemic decimated elephant camps and foreign tourism ground to a virtual halt. Only 400,000 foreign tourists arrived in Thailand last year compared with nearly 40 million in 2019.
Some days, Siriporn doesn’t receive any donations and her elephants are underfed.</…….