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Thailand lays on jumbo fruit buffet for elephants

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CHIANG MAI (Reuters Life!) - Huge bunches of bananas and tonnes of sugar cane topped the menu for one of Thailand’s most heavyweight all-you-can-eat buffets -- the annual National Elephant Day lunch.

More than 70 elephants took part in the festivities, held at the Maesa Elephant Camp sanctuary in Chiang Mai since 1998, when the government declared March 13 National Thai Elephant Day.

Hundreds of tourists watched the elephants as they paraded around the camp, played sports matches and painted pictures.

The elephant is Thailand’s national animal and government officials hope events like National Elephant Day will make people revere them as it tries to conserve its elephant population, now around 4,500.

“The government declared March 13 to be National Elephant Day. We hold the ceremony to let people know how important Thai elephants are,” camp owner Chuchart Kallamapichit said.

Elephants at the sanctuary are taught to play sports such as football, bowling, baseball and basketball. One elephant used its trunk to blow darts to pop balloons.