Aurelien: Just a quick note before you enjoy Anna-Lisa’s post about the lovely elephants. We are visiting Burma for the next couple weeks and will likely not have good internet access. However we’ve scheduled a couple posts while we are gone, so make sure to come back and check them out!
Anna Lisa: Last week we spent a wonderful day at the Elephant Nature Park, the land where sad elephants go to live a better, peaceful life. There are 36 elephants so far that live in the Nature Park. It was truly wonderful being around these gentle, giant animals. It should be said that Asian Elephants are gentler and kinder than their cousins, the African Elephants. These elephants have also been around humans, so please don’t just approach any elephant you see. 😛
Sadly, many elephants in Thailand and other parts of the world are mistreated. They are abused, poked and prodded to conform to human’s will. They are forced to perform tricks, move logs and carry heavy loads around on their backs. While an elephant might seem super duper strong and mighty, in fact their gentle back and spine are not meant for carrying heavy loads all day long. It injures their spines and causes pain. Next time you are thinking of going to an elephant attraction where they are offering rides or making the elephants perform tricks (such as drawing or throwing darts) think twice. All of it might be entertaining to us, but is not at all humane for the elephants.
At the Sanctuary the elephants do no have to perform any tricks, they do not give rides to humans, instead they can do as they please. They get to roam the land, eat large quantities of fruit and hang with their adopted families. They also all have a mahout, a Thai man that is their trainer. These mahouts spend their day (and possibly night) with their elephants. They feed them, bring them on walks into the mountains and keep an eye on them. It’s really sweet to see.
The Elephant Nature Park is a non profit foundation and they are smart by using tourists as free labor. 😉 You can volunteer for a week, a month or visit for a day. You pay a fee (we paid $80 per person for the day) to spend the day with the elephants, all while helping out a great cause. As a day visitor we fed them twice, hung out with them and bathed them. 🙂 We also were given rides to and from our hotels and a big vegetarian feast and tea/snack. Yes, the fee is quite high, but I was happy to donate to a wonderful cause (can you tell yet how much I love elephants?). If you volunteer for longer you actually have to help out by cleaning up the elephant dung, helping around the park and other jobs.
A few more facts about these elephants. When a new elephant arrives at the sanctuary the other elephants adopt them. So at this the park there were different groups of families. We don’t know why elephants decide to be families or how they decide to adopt a newcomer. Sometimes two elephants stick together or there are bigger groups. The male bull always stays alone except for mating season. At the park they only have three bulls, and two of them are babies that were born at the park. The male bulls are more aggressive, so when they came around we have to stay in a safe place.
So that was our experience. I hope you enjoy the photos!