Thailand: Alas, Poor Elephas! He's Losing Class

When King Bhumibol Adulyadej last week celebrated his 36th birthday — a particularly significant anniversary to Thais, who measure life in twelve-year cycles — traditionalists were saddened not to find a single royal elephant taking part in the elaborate ceremonies. In Thailand, as elsewhere in Asia, the once enormous importance of the elephant has declined drastically. While elephant ownership is still considered prestigious, a new Cadillac or Mercedes (the King owns several of each) now rates far higher as a status symbol than a mature, 15-year-old Elephas maximus with 40 years of rugged mileage ahead of him.

No Parking. Thailand...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!