BANGKOK, Thailand — Hard-pressed to make a living in Thailand's dwindling jungles, a group of elephant handlers has found greener pastures for 50 of its animals in the bustling streets of Bangkok.
The four-ton beasts lumber calmly along the congested roads, towering above cars and stopping to accept food from passers-by, perform tricks or pose for photographs.
The elephants were trucked to Bangkok from northeast Thailand earlier this year for a government tourist promotion program.
They stayed on when their owners realized that they could earn more money in the capital--giving children rides or playing soccer for audiences--than they could back home.
Vichai Plaisuwan, an elephant handler, or mahout, from Surin province, said his job there had disappeared with the jungle.
"Many years ago, when Surin was still covered in forests, elephants were used to drag timber to the mills. But now all the trees have been cut down," he said.