(Elephas maximus) (Linnaeus, 1758)
Asian elephants mostly still occur in fragmented but vast forest ranges in the east, west and south of Thailand. In some areas they regularly come into conflict with humans, for example in Prachuap Khiri Khan and Yala provinces.
I have dedicated a lot of time in recent years to photographing wild Asian elephant’s (Elephas maximus) in Thailand. I started out by visiting Kui Buri National Park for a typical safari experience, however I prefer to find the animals myself and some areas of Kaeng Krachan and Khao Yai National Parks allowed for this kind of experience later on. In the drought of the dry season of 2020 I had some of my successful attempts at photographing elephants. Finding wild elephants typically involves a lot of driving up and down roads in likely locations where they occur. Their presence is easily identified by their giant turds which be found along the roads. However, it is not easy to see the animal responsible for these massive dumps. Typically elephants walk along such roads after dark as they are incredibly shy around humans, especially those in herds. Solitary males are typically less shy and may walk along roads at any time during the day. Seeing a group of elephants in daylight outside of the Kui Buri area is not so easy, and I have occasionally only had brief glimpses as they hurry across a road in the evening or early morning. Some parts of Khao Yai National Park allow for a greater chance of such encounters. One night my car got stuck among a large herd of elephants as I was a driving down a narrow road looking for snakes. An exciting but also slightly uneasy experience!
Below are some of images of what I regard to be my best elephant encounters so far. In February 2020 during an exceptionally dry year, a herd of elephants descending from the depths of the interior of Kaeng Krachan National Park to find water on the edges of a village. By complete luck I happened to be driving past one such water source when I noticed a young elephant bathing. By sitting and watching from the opposite side of the lake I saw what were presumably the parents of this young elephant come to the waters edge for a drink. According to locals, this was the first time that wild elephants had been seen at this place. However, in April 2021 I was again able to observe elephants at this location. During subsequent visits I have no longer been able to find them at that location although they are present in other areas nearby.