Herds of elephants tucked into sweet treats today as they were treated to all-you-can-eat buffets to celebrate the national animal.
Juicy watermelons, ripe pineapples, banana bunches and sticks of sugar were laid out on tables as the jumbos battled for space – their ivory tusks shining in the sun light.
As the national animal of Thailand, the Asian elephant is steeped in its culture – even its national flag used to feature an elephant. The Thai government decided to create an annual day of recognition to raise public awareness of the importance of elephants.
Footage from the Maesa camp in Chiang Mai province, northern Thailand, today shows elephants enjoying the lunch this afternoon. The celebration is part of National Elephant Day that has taken place around the country every March 13, since 1998.
Mahout Khunseuk said: ”Riding elephants is a special honour, especially on a day like today. We look after them every day of the year and see them grow up. It’s beautiful to see them being treated and having all the attention on them.”
The event, known as the satoke, is celebrated by treating the beloved elephants to a large lunch. Thai Buddhists also believe it is a way to say thank you to the elephants and bring good luck for the year ahead.
Elephants usually scoff grass, bananas and sugarcane every day but the satoke fairs see them also enjoy watermelons and pineapples.
There are now between 3,000 to 4,000 elephants left in Thailand. Around half of these are domesticated at sanctuaries, while the remainder live wild in the country’s national parks.