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Elephants and Monkeys of Thailand

Elephants and Monkeys of Thailand

Elephants in Thailand

Some facts about Elephants and Monkeys of Thailand which you will be visiting and they will be visiting Hope Rehab!

The people of Thailand have long held the elephant in high esteem because of its strength and size. This animal is also been venerated due to Buddhist spiritual beliefs – it is associated with mental strength and responsibility. There are also stories of how the Buddha was incarnated as an elephant in previous lives and many Thai people like to make merit to the Hindu god Ganesh (who has a head of an elephant).

Pete Elephant

At the beginning of the twentieth century, there were believed to have been around 100,000 elephants living in the forests of Thailand (source: The Thai Elephant Conservation Center). This number has now fallen to 5,000 with only 2,000 of these elephants living in the wild. The reason for this dramatic fall in numbers is the deforestation of Thailand, and the fact that these animals are no longer required for heavy duty work. The situation has been described as dire, and there is a real risk of these animals becoming distinct.

For hundreds of years, the Thai elephant would be ridden into battle by kings and generals. One of the most famous of these battles occurred in 1592 when the leaders of the two opposing forces had a death match while sitting on the back of these animals.

The white elephant , which actually looks brown, is the most revered of all Thai elephants because it is associated with purity. Up until recent times, the greatness of kings in South East Asia was determined by the number of white elephants they owned. In the past, only the most important people in the country were allowed to keep white elephants. The old flag of Siam contained an image of a white elephant.

Up until a few decades ago, elephants were heavily relied on for their strength by the logging industry in Thailand. This all changed in 1989, when concerns about deforestation forced the government to ban certain types of logging. Over the previous decades, the elephants lost its natural habit (the forests), and the end of the logging industry meant it was no longer required by industry.

Taking care of elephants has always been a traditional family business passed down from generation to generation. Once these animals were no longer required for logging, it meant that thousands of people were left without a reliable way of making money – yet still having elephants to take care of. Many of these trainers continue generate some income for caring for domesticated elephants by focusing on the tourist industry and the charity of local people.


Probably the main reason many of us like monkeys so much is they remind us a bit of ourselves. These primates are not only known for their cleverness and curiosity but also their propensity to get up to all types of mischief – sound familiar? There are monkeys living in the hills around Hope Rehab, and you will likely get the opportunity to get up close to these cheeky scamps during your time with us.

There are five types of monkey living in Thailand:

  • The stump-tailed macaque
  • The pig tailed  macaque – found mostly in South Thailand
  • Crab-eating macaque (long-tailed macaque )
  • The Assam macaque
  • The rhesus macaque

You are most likely to see the crab-eating macaque during your stay with us here at Hope Rehab. It gets its name because it can sometimes be seen scavenging for edibles on beaches in South-East Asia, and this species can swim in the sea. If the crab-eating monkey lives near human settlements, it can start to rely on begging for food or stealing it. The Thai word for this species is ‘ling Seam’ – ‘ling’ is the general term for ‘monkey’.

The crab-eating macaque has fur that is somewhere between light grey and brown – the belly is a lighter colour. If you measured its tail, you should find that it is a similar length to its body (this is why it is also known as a long-tailed macaque). These monkeys are mostly seen living in tropical forests, but you will also find hordes of them living in Thai cities like Lopburi.

Are Thai Monkeys Dangerous?


The crab-eating macaque is cute and fun to watch, but even the infants may try to bite you if it feels you are a threat. You don’t need to panic if a monkey comes close to you, but you need to avoid showing fear, or getting into a tug-of-war if one of them grabs onto your belongings (it’s best not to bring along a bag or anything with a strap if you are going to see the monkeys). It is also best not to smile too much at these primates because showing your teeth can be interpreted as an act of aggression. The Thai authorities discourage people from feeding monkeys – although every year in Lopburi they put on a huge banquet for them.Thai monkeys are renowned for their cleverness. The crab-eating macaque has been witnessed using tools, and they regularly use the train system in Thailand to move from one area of the country to another. Monkeys live in gangs (troupes), and they become very aggressive if another gang enters their territory.

Watch Your Monkey Mind!

One of the practices you will be doing during your time with us here at Hope Rehab is meditation. When you first sit down to meditate, you are likely to experience that your thoughts are racing all over the place. In Buddhism, this is referred to this as ‘monkey mind’. It is not meant as insult to you or to the monkeys, but it refers to the fact that the untrained mind is always trying to grab onto things. The goal of mindfulness is to gain some control over the monkey mind.

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