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When you think of a trip to Thailand a majority of people will think of riding the Elephants through the jungle and why wouldn’t you?
They are one of the most beautiful species on this planet; I personally don’t understand why any one wouldn’t want to spend time with the giants, but do you really think a four ton animal is happily going to let people climb over them all day?
There is a dark side to Thailand’s Elephant industry. The illegal capture and trade for use in the tourism industry, these Elephants are taken from the wild and from a young age suffer a process known as ‘breaking the Elephant’s spirit’. The phrase alone makes me feel sick. If you are curious – google the videos, educate yourself on what tourists are unknowingly funding. It brings a whole new meaning to the term ‘Elephants never forget’.
However, I am happy to say that each year more people are becoming aware of this problem and a lot of this is down to the Elephant Nature Park.
About the Elephant Sanctuary:
Set in the Chiang Mai province of Northern Thailand, the Elephant Nature Park is a unique project set around 60km from the city. Founded by a wonderful lady called Lek Chailert, the ENP rescues Elephants from the tourism and logging trade then provides them with a sanctuary to live out the rest of their lives free from cruelty. It is a non-profit organisation, all money is put back into the care of the animals or used to purchase elephants from the trade.
The ENP is open to the public for the various length visits. I spent an amazing day at the sanctuary which cost around £45 – including lunch and transfers. As soon as you arrive at the 250 acre sanctuary you feel at peace.
During a tour of the park, you are educated on each of the Elephant’s story as they graze with no chains or ropes.
After the tour, you feed the elephants their breakfast. This is when you really realise the strength these amazing animal’s have in their trunks alone.
Lunch is an all you can eat vegetarian buffet and free time to spend with the rescued dogs that also live at the site. There is also an option to watch a hard-hitting documentary about the truth of Thai elephant industry. I don’t think there was a dry eye by the end, it is honestly something that will stay with me forever.
After more time feeding the elephants and lots of photo opportunities, you are taken down to the river to bathe the elephants! It was so much fun and the highlight of my day. This is also when you really see the mutual respect between Mahout (Elephant keeper), it really is a bond.
My day at the Elephant Nature Park was a day of mixed emotions, but I came away educated and inspired. That is what I believe animal experiences should achieve. It should be more than just a photo opportunity and a cross off the bucket list. They also provide a week-long stay at the park to learn even more, and I really hope I get the chance to go back and do this.
It is up to you whether you ride the Elephants in Thailand, and many people still ride the Elephants completely unaware of the horrors, but the more this trade is funded – the more demand there is for these innocent animals to be stolen from a life free from suffering in the wild.
Below is a video about Lek, the founder of the ENP.