Elephant Nature Park. (www.elephantnaturefoundation.org)

Chiang Mai Travel Blog

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Food for the elephants

Today we are going to a elephant parc. We don't know precise what to expect, but it's an foundation for elephants who now are protected from abuse and ignorance during their working lives. Some of them have suffered terrible injuries.  Well it sounds not to positive, but from stories of other travellers who have been there, it must be a livetime experience.

So, we step in a mini bus with 11 other tourists who want to see an elephant, but don't want so see a elephant show or trekking. At first we go to the morning fresh market in Chiang Mai to buy for 15.000 baht of watermelons and bananas. We all help the load the 2 trucks with the watermelons and bananas.

Elephant Nature Park near Chiang Mai.
Our guide, with the name mammoth(no, it's not a joke, it's his real name) tell's us that we just bought the afternoon snack for the elephants. Wow, that's a lot for about 30 elephants. After that we go further to the parc. It's about an hours drive from Chiang Mai.

It's great to see the elephants just walking around in a very beautifull surrounding and their are so many of them. They got a mahout (like a shepherd) who is always nearby the elephant, but they walk freely without any chain through the parc. From upclose the are enormes. But they look friendly and peacefull with treir tiny eyes. In total their are 31 elephants, 3 of them are still baby's.

We are welcomed by an english girl who is one of the volunteers of the parc.

Elephant waiting for her afternoon snack.
She will guide us through the rest of the day. She tell's us the story's of some of the elephants and how they are helping the elephants. It's not only elephants who are their with so many, dogs aswell. Saved streetdogs. The owner of the foundation, her name is Sangduen "Lek" Chailert, is crazy about dogs aswell.  there are 47 dogs walking around next to the elephants. I'm not the dog type, but as long as they stay not to close to me, it's okay.

Around 12 o clock in the afternoon, we all hat to pick an elephant to give them their afternoon snack. I choose Thai. She is an 61 year old lady. This is her story:   Thai’s life of exploitation started early. At the tender age of three, she was taken from her mother and sold to a traveling circus.

Feeding elephant.
Baby elephants are the star attractions and can bring in a lot of money, which can guarantee a life of excessive training and no time for a happy childhood. For the next nine years Thai would travel with a circus, performing in shows from city to city, enduring transport in cramped conditions. During these formative years, a wild elephant would be learning about life in the jungle, but Thai learned only to please an audience and how to survive under dreadful conditions.

At the age of 12, Thai was not a cute little baby elephant anymore. She was no longer a big money-maker in the circus act and was sold. The details of an elephant’s life can be vague, and not a lot is known about this period of her life, but most likely she would have started training for a career of logging.

Elephant playing with a tire.
During this era, logging was still legal and the primary job and source of income for the owners of working elephants. The teak forests had not yet been depleted. For the next 30 years she probably spent her time working in the forests, until the ban on logging in 1989. After that, already middle-aged, she would have worked in the emerging trekking industry or suffered the negative side effects of being a street begging elephant. She also had jobs as an elephant for rent for ceremonies at temples, weddings or at festivals.

Thai’s life took a positive turn when she was taken to the Surin Elephant Round-up in November 2002 to be sold once again. This was when Lek, along with Chas and Rachel, first discovered her. Thai came to Elephant Nature Park already in her 50’s, but never knowing a life free from work.

Playing elephants.
She is an older elephant who was lucky to get a much deserved early retirement. It took her some time to adjust, but eventually she settled in.

She is so sweet. Taking all the time in the world to eat her basket of fruits empty. Ofcource I have to give it to her. She eats an whole racame of bananas in ones. WOW! Talking about a big appetite!  After almost an hour she was finished, leaving me behind with slimy and dirty hands.  But it was worth it. After that I washed my hands, we were getting a big Thai lunch. It was a buffet. It tasted very good and the veriety of the dishes was fine.

Around 2 o clock we went together with the elephants to the lake that is streaming through the parc. It's so nice to see how the elephants enjoying there bath. We were allowed to help them bathing.

Elephants.
We became a big brush that we hat to use to scrub trere backs and belly. They really like it. As soon as they come out of the water, they go to sandy soil and thow it over themselves with their trunks. Meanwhile I became my first  wet kiss of a baby elephant. I imagine it's the same feeling as putting a vacuum cleaner against your cheek. ( Don't laugh, it's the only way I can explain it) 

Around 3 o clock they show us a film about how the foundation was started and how the Thai make an elephant tame. That last part is the most sick piece of abusing I ever seen on film. It's a tradition in thailand to do it that way, but it's a way I never want to see for real. It's dreadful to watch it. Let I put it in other words, I really got sick of seeing it.

Elephant smile.
 I spit my lunch out. No more movie for me. Gladly after that we went back to the elephants, they were having their playtime. We were just looking at them for more than 1 and a half hour. It's a feast to see it.

At 5 o clock we went back to Chiang Mai, leaving the elephants and mostly good memory's behind. It was a great experience, except the movie than. For sure, next time I go back to Thailand I will visit the parc again, maybe even as volunteer for more days.      

vosking says:
Ja, het is Lampang. Heb er ook een review over geschreven.
Posted on: Mar 24, 2008
Ronniew says:
Hoi Charlotte is dit toevallig in Lampang bij the elephant conservation center?? Hier heb ik ook een blog van namelijk!
Posted on: Mar 24, 2008
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Food for the elephants
Food for the elephants
Elephant Nature Park near Chiang M…
Elephant Nature Park near Chiang …
Elephant waiting for her afternoon…
Elephant waiting for her afternoo…
Feeding elephant.
Feeding elephant.
Elephant playing with a tire.
Elephant playing with a tire.
Playing elephants.
Playing elephants.
Elephants.
Elephants.
Elephant smile.
Elephant smile.
Such a small beautifull eye, for s…
Such a small beautifull eye, for …
Blind elephant.
Blind elephant.
Feeding time for elephant Thai. (t…
Feeding time for elephant Thai. (…
Elephant.
Elephant.
Elephant.
Elephant.
Elephants like bathing.
Elephants like bathing.
Elephants like bathing.
Elephants like bathing.
Elephant bathing.
Elephant bathing.
Washing an elephant.
Washing an elephant.
Washing an elephant.
Washing an elephant.
Young Elephant.
Young Elephant.
Elephant with Lek, the founder of …
Elephant with Lek, the founder of…
Elephant with Lek, the founder of …
Elephant with Lek, the founder of…
Elephant with Lek, the founder of …
Elephant with Lek, the founder of…
Group of elephants.
Group of elephants.
Elephants.
Elephants.
Elephant playing.
Elephant playing.
Elephant playing.
Elephant playing.
Elephant playing.
Elephant playing.
Sleeping dog.
Sleeping dog.
Chiang Mai Sights & Attractions review
Elephant Nature Parc
Save the Elephant. Elephant Nature Foundation is a non-profit organization which advocates and acts on behalf of the rights of Asian elephants in T… read entire review
Chiang Mai
photo by: Stevie_Wes