A Positive Asian Elephant Experience

Now my last blog post was pretty intense, but I’m so glad I posted it. ‘Why You Should Never Ride and Elephant’ now has over 100 views and that is so mind blowing to me. A huge thank you to everybody who has read and/or shared the post, I know for a fact it has reached people who were otherwise unaware of the treatment of Elephants. I can’t believe one of my posts reached that big of an audience, especially one so important so THANK YOU!

As promised, this post will be all about our experience at the Elephant Nature Park sanctuary, Just north of Chiang Mai. We purchased the overnight package, which meant we had two full days of seeing the elephants.

The sanctuary is quite a drive out of the city, during which you are shown a short film about the environment and treatment the animals rescued have come from, and therefore how to behave around them. The video went into a lot of detail about the abuse the elephants have been through, this is where most of the information from my last post came from. However, the sanctuary is not only a safe haven for elephants, but also buffalo, and cats and dogs who were mostly rescued from the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.

As soon as we arrived, it was feeding time. The guests stand on a raised platform with buckets of fruit and veg and the clever elephants, who know exactly when feeding time is, swiftly make their way towards you. What I found most endearing is how some elephants had clear preferences of what they wanted to eat. If they wanted watermelon and you placed pumpkin in their trunk, it would be ungratefully thrown to the floor instantly. The baby elephant was too young to crunch the harder fruit and veg, so we were instructed his favourites are yellow bananas. Being so close to the elephants and feeding them may have been the most amazing thing I have ever done, even if your hands do get a little slobbery after a while.

After feeding time we went on a walk with a guide through the huge park, individually meeting each elephant and hearing their stories. Many were blind, had dislocated hips, broken legs and feet from stepping on landmines while being used for illegal logging. One elephant had been born in the logging industry and tied to her mother while she worked, when a huge log fell down the hill and hit them both, leaving the baby with a broken leg and foot. Now grown up she has learned to walk on this leg, but she does need to be under constant watch for her safety. Each elephant has their own Mahout, who love them dearly and take extremely good care of them, you can see the trust between the animals and them clearly and it is wonderful.

Making her broken leg just look like swagger

Before evening arrived, we watched bathing time. Two of the elephants decided they would play in the mud before heading into the river for some fun. These animals love water and watching them play in the river with each other was incredible. They are extremely social, going in and messing around with their friends, they always stay together. Once they enter the park, an elephant has to try be accepted into one of the many herds already created by the others, like a first day at a new school. We could them swaying with enjoyment at being in the water and having their Mahouts wash them.

That night we had a vegan friendly dinner (the elephants eat vegan food so the people who stay there must also) and listened to the extremely loud cicadas before heading to bed. One of the rescue dogs decided to follow us back from the main site to our little bungalow and slept on our balcony all night, I named him Artie 🙂

We were up early the next morning for breakfast and another walk around the park. This was before the day guests arrive, so we were just one small group in the whole park and therefore had a much more personal experience than the day before. We met the elephants again and got to take pictures with them, before going into the kitchen to prepare a meal for one of the more elderly elephants. We all had to mush up a huge amount of bananas and rice, making them into about 30 odd big balls for her to eat. Because she was an older elephant, she had lost some of her teeth, just like humans do, but you can’t buy huge elephant dentures, so she has to eat much softer food than the others. This experience was different to feeding the other elephants because she was also blind, meaning she couldn’t make her way over to the platform for feeding time. We each walked over to her and placed a hand on her trunk to tell her we were there and placed the ball into her curved trunk, she would then throw them into her mouth. Coming from previous abuse, this 80 year old elephant never used to know when her next meal would be, because of this she would try and store some of the rice balls in her cheeks, we would have to stop every few minutes for her to take them out once she realised more food was coming.

Our last activity was to bathe with the elephants. We got waist deep into the river with three elephants and each had a bucket to throw water over them with, the animals love this and it gets rid of any unwanted bugs that have buried themselves into their skin. Though difficult with the strong current, this was extremely fun, how many people can say they’ve bathed with an elephant!

No elephant riding in sight! Amazing elephant experiences that provide a safe space and don’t cause the animal any harm are out there and are better than anything. This was honestly the best thing I’ve ever done in my life and I’m so happy to know my money went into an organisation set out to help these beautiful creatures.

Don’t stop spreading the word people, it ain’t over till it’s over!

Lon x

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