ELEPHANTS are facing starvation in Thailand because tourists aren't paying money to see them.
There are 4,000 captive elephants in the country and more than a quarter of them may starve because their caretakers can't afford to buy food.
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Thailand has closed its borders due to the coronavirus pandemic, so tourists have been unable to visit.
Lek Chailert, founder of the Save Elephant Foundation, told the BBC: "If there is no support forthcoming to keep them safe, these elephants, some of whom are pregnant, will either starve to death or may be put on to the streets to beg."
"It's a very bleak outlook unless some financial help is received immediately.
The animals also risk being sold to zoos or illegally used for logging.
One of the issues, according to Kerri McCrea, who runs the Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary in Mae Chaem, northern Thailand, is that there is no longer enough forest to provide food for the animals naturally.
She told the news website: "The worst case scenario is that owners will have to chose between themselves and their elephants."
The pandemic hasn't been all bad for the country's elephants though.
One camp has set the animals "free" and removed the heavy wooden seating often used by tourists following a drop in demand due to coronavirus.
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The Maesa elephant camp in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, has been letting visitors ride the animals for 44 years, but has since decided to change this – for good.
The animals will also be allowed to roam freely around the grounds with guests able to watch the animals, but no longer sit on them.
Camp director Anchalee Kalampichit said this was the first time in 44 years that the elephants had not worn the seats at the start of the day.
She said the company will now change their business to allow the elephants to roam freely in the grounds and operate as a place for visitors to observe the animals – and all 78 of the jumbos will never have to wear them again.
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