Elephants have played an important role in Thailand throughout history and today the elephant (chang Thai) remains an enduring symbol. In bygone eras elephants were used in warfare; more recently elephants have been used as beasts of burden, particularly in the logging industry. The elephant also has special spiritual significance with its association with Buddhist and Hindu beliefs: It is believed that Queen Maya (mother of the Buddha) was only able to conceive after having a dream that a white elephant entered inside her. The relationship between novice monks and the gentle giants is a reverential one.
The number of elephants in Thailand was estimated at around 100,000 in 1900. Today there are only between 3,000 and 4,000 elephants in Thailand, almost half of that number domesticated and the remainder living wild in national parks.