One of the most popular attractions about Thailand beyond the incredible food and scenery are is it’s elephants. People often imagine themselves riding on the back of one of these majestic creatures. Tourists wait in long lines just to sit high atop unquestionably the most powerful mammal on the planet. However, the Elephant Nature Park does not offer that. This is an animal rescue facility and a sanctuary.
The Elephant Nature Park is different in that it really does rescues elephants. Many of their rescues have lived in a captive situation. Chained and confined into small spaces. Sharp hooks in the ears control them. Their sole purpose in life is be ridden by unsuspecting tourists who want an up close encounter with an amazing animal. This practice still goes on today and if you chose to ride an elephant, it is quite likely that the conditions they live in are inhumane.
Others have lived a very difficult life of hard labor. Working relentlessly in logging an illegal practice, but it still goes on.
Instead of seeking to ride an elephant, how does it sound to really learn about elephants? Imagine looking eye to eye, and wrapping your arm around an elephants trunk. You will be surrounded by elephants at the Elephant Nature Park. Closer to them then you could ever have thought. An adventure the children will never forget and baby boomers will cherish.
The Elephant Nature Park, located about 40 mins outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand is not only an elephant resuce, but a rehabilitation center and sanctuary. Elephants are nursed back to health. Once again healthy, hey are allowed to roam and play as elephants would do in the wild.
A Deminishing Population
It is estimated that the elephant population of Thailand, deminished from over 100,000 to just 3000 to 4000. Tourism, logging, poaching and humans moving into wild areas is the reason for the decline. About 10% of Thailands remaing elephants still live in deplorable & inhumane conditions.
Compassion & Humanity
It is that 10% that the Elephant Nature Park seeks to help. Since the 1990s the Elephant Nature Park has rescued more than 200 elephants. Instead of riding elephants here, you will learn their history, meet family groups of elephants usally created right here in the park. You will learn what it takes to care for them.
On the 250 acre grounds you will interact with the elephants, more than 70 in all at any given time. Be prepared to walk, 250 acres is very large. You will go out to meet the elephants wherever it is that they have decided to spend their day.
Their stories touch hearts. Each has their own unique story to tell. Most elephants arrive at the Elephant Nature Park very sick and injured, mistreated at the hands of their captors. Some feel fearful, left blind from mistreatment. Allowed to live alone in quiet, peaceful solitude if that is what they chose.
Most of the elephants that arrive at the Elephant Nature Park have been abused. Leaving them fearful and untrusting of humans, not wanting to have areas of their body like ears and feet touched. Quieting these fears takes time. They need to experience kindness and patience.
An important aspect of their daily routine is positive reinforcement. Elephants learn to willingly offer various body parts, like feet, trunk and ears for examination and blood tests. Given treats like bananas in various forms to reinforce good behaviour. Elephants really do LOVE bananas.
Elephants often arrive severely underweight. Serious wounds including occasional wounds received from land mines, still found in the mountainous rural jungle regions.
It becomes clearly apparent that elephants are extremely intelligent and learn quickly. With time, they learn that what is done to them now is meant to help them. No more pain, just gentle care to ease their suffering.
I guess what touches me most about these beautiful creatures is their ability to forgive. As I type this, it brings tears to my eyes to think of what they have been through and how they have learned to love again. To once again trust humans.
Each elephant is given mahouts. A Mahout becomes the human extension of every elephant family member. Mahouts become closely bonded with their elephant. Mahouts at the Elephant Nature Park never use chains or hooks, but treats instead as positive reinforcement.
Interact Without Exploitation
The Elephant Nature Park is a unique experience. These gentle giants receive a new life. A life free of pain and the freedom to regrow their once broken spirit.
You can spend a day with the elephants. You can also stay there for several days as a volunteer where you will really learn to care for elephants.
A visit to the Elephant Nature Park will change you. If an elephant wasn’t your favorite animal before going to the park, they might well be after you spend a day with these sensitive gentle giants.