PHUKET: ''Elephants are among the world's most delightful creatures but if males are going to rampage and risk lives, then it's time to ban the big boys''.
Those words appeared on Phuketwan in February, 2011, after a rampage on Phuket. Yet almost four years on, adult male elephants are still taking tourists trekking on Phuket and in Phang Nga.
The bludgeoning to death of two elephant handlers over just three days this week in separate incidents shows how real the risk is any time that male elephants are used in the tourism industry.
Two Russian tourists on board one of the out-of-control elephants were fortunate to escape injury or death.
While Thai authorities have reacted, there is still no sign that the big boys are going to be banned. If Government officials are serious about safeguarding the lives of tourists in Thailand, they should be.
The managers of 22 elephant camps in Phang Nga are to meet next week to talk about how to better control the 200 elephants in the province, and the killer elephant is in isolation, with a new, brave handler set to take over his care.
The Director of the Phang Nga Livestock Office, Tanawat Pansanit, told Phuketwan today that two more elephants from the same camp were now experiencing musth - the dangerous state of sexual arousal when elephants become unpredictable.
''The elephants must be corralled in pens alone and signs have to be placed on the pens making the point that nobody should enter,'' Khun Tanawat said.
Food for the elephant is often reduced by half until the danger passes, he said. The onset of musth can be predicted and secretions appear near the elephant's ears, Khun Tanawat said.
''Next week we will all meet and work out what needs to be done to create the right kind of approach to this problem,'' he said.
He added that he had already sent officers to all of the province's camps to observe what was happening and to give advice on better control if necessary.
Many tourists holidaying on Phuket are taken to Phang Nga to trek in jungles that are more extensive than those on the holiday island.
Phuket's Livestock Director, Weerasit Puthipairoj, said that the elephant named ''Por'' that killed its handler on Tuesday had already been trucked off the island by its owner - even though transporting an elephant during musth posed possible danger to the elephant and to the truck.
Khun Weerasit said there were 26 registered elephant camps and 215 registered elephants on the island, but he feared there may also be some illegal camps because of the popularity of trekking among tourists.
In both provinces, any handler that fails to obey the ''moral code'' to put male elephants into isolation during musth will. have his licence revoked. The same will apply to the camp from where the elephant operates.
But in the opinion of Phuketwan the safest trek ahead for tourists is to stay off the big boys and the best way for authorities to make sure that happens is to ban male elephants from the trekking business.
Too many people have died needlessly. The time has come to impose tighter regulations banning all male elephants.