PHUKET'S elephant population is growing larger but then, when you're as popular as elephants are, everyone follows the herd.
More camps and rides are springing up. The island now has 177 elephants, and all except the youngest one, born on January 1, have microchips under their ears.
In theory, that makes them all carefully tabbed so that nothing strange or unforeseen can happen to them. This is a wise move because ivory remains a desirable commodity among poachers.
From all reports, last month's visiting US sailors loved the elephants and that's probably as it should be. Phuket's ''heffalumps'' are mostly entering middle age, perhaps 40 years old or more, enjoying a reasonably comfortable existence compared to others living in destitution on the streets of Bangkok.
Are they happy? Who can say. As humans, we like to imagine they are just like us. We watch cartoons. We transfer emotions and feelings. At least, some people do.
Should elephants be tamed and trained? Who cay say. Humans have been using them in peace and war since man first mounted a beast. In Thailand, they are a national icon.
TODAY Dr Jirayu Niranwiroj is visiting Siam Safari in the island's south, not far from the Big Buddha, to attend to an injury on Pedpee, a five-year-old, who was born on New Years' Eve.
Pedpee has an injury that has stopped her walking properly for 10 days. The injury was inflicted by her mahout, her trainer.
''It was to stop her running wild,'' said the veterinarian from the Department of Livestock Development. ''Elephants need to be controlled and when they are young, that can be quite difficult.
''Elephants can't just be left to run free. They're too big.''
So the wound inflicted by Pedpee's trainer needs to be treated by the elephant doctor.
Siam Safari, Dr Jirayu said, was quick to report injuries to its herd of 23 elephants and among the best elephant owners on the island.
Elephants are just part of the call-outs for Dr Jirayu. He and his seven-person team seem to be working constantly.
There's a long list of Phuket elephants, with 30, including 10 young ones, at FantaSea, where they perform in the popular tourist show, six at Phuket Zoo, six at Laguna Phuket, and two at Dino Park in Kata-Karon.
Elsewhere in Thailand, tourists can learn how to become mahouts, and elephants have been trained to paint souvenir works of art that mostly become souvenirs.
Yet because ivory from domesticated elephants is permitted, ivory from the tusks of wild elephants is frequently discovered at airports in Africa, destined for Thailand.
Compared to elephants in the wild, are those on Phuket more fortunate?
Dr Jirayu treats young Pedpee, then heads back to home base, where there are plenty of dogs and cats in need of care and attention.