Elephants spread virus awareness among Thai children

BANGKOK (AFP) – Thailand’s love of elephants combined with the holidays theme yesterday when four of the giant creatures dressed as Santa turned up at a school just outside Bangkok, complete with huge coronavirus masks.

Excited children from Jirasat Wittaya School in Ayutthaya, an hour’s drive from the capital, sang and lined up to have their photos taken with the animals in the annual tradition.

The elephants, Sri Mongkon, 14, Sri Raya, 6, Peter, 15, and King Kaew, 18, used their trunks to carry baskets of face masks to the youngsters and motorists outside the school.

English and science teacher Brett Baxter said the event brought a special kind of holiday spirit coupled with a flavour of Thailand.

Students (R) takes a face mask from a basket held by an elephant (L) from the Ayutthaya Elephant Palace, dressed in a Santa Claus costume and wearing a face mask, outside the Jirasat Wittaya School in the central Thai province of Ayutthaya on December 23, 2020. AFP

“It’s fantastic for the children. It mixes two cultures together. The culture of Thailand is based around elephants,” he said.

Manager of Ayutthaya’s elephant palace Ittipan Paolamai said the school visit had been held for 17 years. “This year due to the pandemic as well as the recent outbreak, we used this opportunity to raise public awareness about the spread of COVID-19,” he told AFP.

Thailand, a country of 70 million people, has registered more than 5,700 coronavirus infections and in the past week there has been a spike of more than 1,000 cases linked to an outbreak at a Thai seafood market.