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Tourists warned not to feed Bangkok's street elephants

Tourists in Bangkok are being warned not to buy food for street elephants or risk a $310 fine in the latest clampdown on begging by owners of the animals.

The Thai authorities have repeatedly attempted to stamp out the problem of elephant handlers, known as mahouts, walking the creatures in the capital and selling bananas and sugar cane for people to feed them.

If caught, the mahouts face a 10,000 baht fine and six months in jail.

Now a warning not to feed the creatures will be aired on local television and written on signs at various popular tourist spots in the capital, a spokesman for the City Law Enforcement Department said.

At times in recent years as many as 100 elephants and their handlers were estimated to be regularly visiting Bangkok and were even seen begging in the city's red light districts.

"There is nothing for them to do in their impoverished home villages," the spokesman said.

Street begging cuts an elephant's life expectancy by at least half, according to the Elephant Nature Foundation, a non-profit organisation which campaigns for elephant rights.

Activists warn that car fumes and narrow streets often leave the elephants with eye calluses and tuberculosis and make them vulnerable to leg injuries.

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