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Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Want an Elephant? You can buy one...

BANGKOK, Thailand article - They don't have to be housebroken because these pets won't fit in your home.

But not just anyone can own an elephant, says Laithongrian Meephan, 47, owner of the Ayutthaya Elephant Farm, 45 miles north of Bangkok, who is selling about 20 elephants between the ages of 1 1/2 to 3 years.

Prices start at $48,700 apiece for the beasts, which he promises are well-bred, well-trained, well-behaved and a source of luck.

But there are conditions attached. Only animal-loving Thai nationals boasting bank accounts of at least $243,300 can buy the pachyderms, and potential owners must have sufficient space for the beasts to exercise and mud holes where they can cool off.

Owners also will be tested on their elephant know-how three months after their purchase to ensure their seriousness, Laithongrian said. Flunk the test and the farm will buy the animal back from you.

"It is not easy to raise elephants," he says. "According to an old saying, only those who have great prestige and merit can raise them."

Laithongrian says that "post-sale service" will be provided, including the provision of a mahout — a traditional elephant trainer — and victuals to a pachyderm's taste.

The elephant is the de facto national animal of Thailand, and once graced the nation's flag. But with massive deforestation in recent decades, its numbers have decreased.

The sale of wild elephants is forbidden by law, but the Ayutthaya ones on sale are domesticated, the offspring of an "elephant wedding" held several years ago, said Laithongrian. He didn't explain why they were for sale.

There are about 140 elephants, including 40 calves, at the Ayutthaya Elephant Farm, where the elephants put on shows and give rides to tourists.


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