When you build a major highway that crosses over an elephant-migration route in a wildlife sanctuary, expect some jumbo disruption to traffic.
This is precisely what happened in Thailand as a 50-strong herd of elephants brought traffic to a standstill in April 2020. The herd of adults and babies were making their way from one part of the forest to another. But they found the 3076 highway in Chachoengsao Province blocking their way!
Undeterred by a strip of tarmac, the elephants imposed their right of way while a helpless crowd of motorists could only look on in amazement.
The real-life pachyderm patrol, led by a large matriarch elephant, was utterly unfazed by their jaywalking and crossed safely in less than a minute.
Fortunately, the herd of elephants had been tracked by forest rangers throughout the day on April 9, reported Newsflare. They knew precisely where the elephants—the national animal of Thailand—were heading, so were able to close the road in advance of their arrival.
The video of the fantastic sight, filmed by Pratya Chutipat Sakul, shows the majestic elephants crossing the road and then plunging back into their forest home on the other side of the highway.
The herd is headed by their mature female leader, who does not appear to be in too much of a hurry. She is closely followed by her herd members, which have bunched up, keeping within touching distance of each other and the baby elephants. Only one elephant briefly stops in the middle of the road, causing a momentary “elephant traffic” jam.
Several police officers attended the scene, east of the Thai capital, Bangkok. They set up traffic cones to ensure vehicles did not get too close to the elephants. Traffic had been halted well before the elephants appeared to avoid accidents or spooking the herd as it emerged from the forest.
The video was shot by Sakul, whose journey had been interrupted by the elephant crossing. He told Newsflare: “More than 50 wild elephants crossed the highway. They were moving together from one part of the jungle to the other.
“The wildlife officers had been following the elephants for the last few days. When they saw that their path was moving towards the road, they called the police and urgently closed the road.”
The police, he continued, had ensured the elephants were able to cross safely.
Sakul said: “Nobody minds waiting for the elephants, as the most important thing is that they’re safe. The elephants were all so calm and barely noticed the humans. I feel very lucky to have seen such an amazing sight.”
He estimated that it took all the elephants less than 40 seconds to cross the highway.
While this human interaction with wild elephants was without incident, the Daily Mail reports that there have been two people killed in the Chachoengsao area by elephants.
The week previous to the highway crossing, 53-year-old mango picker Chalermphol Sukthawee was found dead in a rubber plantation beside forest at the foot of Langka mountain. It is believed he died after wild elephants stamped on his head. And in February 2020, a monk was also killed after ignoring warnings about a herd of elephants in the vicinity of another plantation.
Last year, The Nation Thailand news site reported that wild elephants in the Chachoengsao area had learned how to stop trucks carrying sugar cane and other crops to ransack their loads.
The 3076 highway runs for almost 15 kilometres through the wildlife sanctuary, linking Chachoengsao and Sa Kaew.
These incidents with elephants might not be entirely due to wild elephants being aggressive. Rather, it is because we humans have encroached on their habitat. Deaths and road crossings by elephants might become more frequent if humans continually spread out and occupy the homes of wildlife. A little forethought and sensitive planning, however, can help humans and wildlife coexist in harmony.
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