For centuries, in the countries of south and Southeast Asia the elephant has been an intimate part of the culture, economy and religion, and nowhere more so than in Thailand. Unlike its African cousin, the Asian elephant is easily domesticated (驯化). The rare so-called white elephants have actually lent the authority of kingship to its rulers and until the 1920s the national flag was a white elephant on a red background.To the early Western visitors the country s romantic name was “Land of the White Elephant”.
Today, however, the story is very different. Out of work and out of land, the Thai elephant struggles for survival in a nation that no longer needs it. The elephant has found itself more or less abandoned by previous owners who have moved on to a different economic world and a westernized society. And while the elephant s problems began many years ago, now it rates a very low national priority.
How this reversal from national icon (圣像) to neglected animal came about is a tale of worsening environmental and the changing lives of the Thais themselves. According to Richard Lair, Thailand’s experts on the Asian elephant and author of the report Gone Astray, at the turn of the century there may well have beenas many as 100,000 domestic elephants in the country. In the north of Thailand alone it was estimated that more than 20,000 elephants were employed in transport, 1,000 of them alone on the road between the cities of Chiang Mai and Chiang Saen. This was at a time when 90 per cent of Thailand was still forest—a habitat (栖息地) that not only supported the animals but also made them necessary to carry goods and people. Nothing ploughs through dense forest better than a massive but sure-footed elephant.
By 1950 the elephant population had dropped to a still substantial 13,397, but today there are probably nomore than 3,800, with another 1,350 roaming free in the national parks. But now, Thailand’s forest coversonly 20 per cent of the land. This deforestation (采伐森林) is the central point of the elephant s difficult situation, for it has effectively put the animals out of work. This century, as the road network grew, so the elephant s role as a beast of burden declined.
Choose correct answers to the question:
1. What can we know about African elephants from the passage?
A. It is easy to tame them.
B. It is hard to tame them.
C. They are living a better life than Asian elephants.
D. Their fate is quite similar to that of Asian elephants.
2. Thailand was once called “Land of the White Elephant” because_______.
A. white elephant is rarely seen and thus very special
B. white elephant was a national symbol until the 1920s
C. white elephant has helped kings to gain the ruling authority
D. this name was so romantic that it was popular among visitors
3. Why is the Thai elephant “out of work”, according to the author?
A. Because the elephants are no longer useful to their owners.
B. Because their owners are westernized and neglect them.
C. Because the government pays little attention to the problem.
D. Because there are too many elephants and too few jobs.
4. Which of the following statements is true about the elephant population at various times?
A. There were 100,000 tamed elephants at the turn of the century.
B. 20,000 elephants were employed in transport in Thailand at the turn of the century.
C. By 1950 the elephant population in Thailand has been quite small.
D. Today the elephant population is estimated at 5,150.
5. The passage is most probably from_______.
A. a travel magazine
B. a history book
C. a research report
D. an official announcement
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