- August 4, 2018
- Chiang Mai
- 0 Comments
In my role as a traveler journalist, I think a lot about how to help publicize projects that involve tourism in a way that contributes society and the environment. That’s why I chose to visit Elephant Nature Park, an animal rescue center located in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand.
Founded by the “elephant whisperer”, Ms. Sangduen Lek Chailert, the sanctuary takes care of animals that have suffered mistreatment in tourist attractions, cargo loading, agriculture and even victims of the ivory trade. These are animals that need special attention, given their physical and psychological conditions. I found elephants in several conditions there: visually impaired, with no paws, without ear, with complications in the spine, with serious mental problems.
On the one hand it is difficult to believe in the human species that mistreats such helpless animals, but on the other hand there are people like Lek who dedicate their lives to make a difference in the world!
Reconstituted leg after contact with a landmine
Why to visit the Elephant Nature Park?
Throughout Asia there are numerous of places that offer the experience of being close to the largest terrestrial mammals of our planet. The fact is that not all of these institutions really are serious in day-to-day care, and many aim only for profit and use animals as mere mean of entertainment.
At the Elephant Nature Park the elephants are treated like animals, people are not riding them, no. Altogether there are 75 elephants who live free and loose on a large territory. Visitors only assist in the daily work of the handler, giving food and bath (besides love).
Asian Elephant – The Importance of Sanctuaries
Throughout Asia the number of elephants does not exceed 30 thousand, and they are already considered a species in the process of extinction. To reverse that picture is a challenge. To get an idea, the gestation of a female lasts 22 months, one of the longest in the entire animal kingdom.
It should be noted that there are currently only 3 to 4 thousand elephants in Thailand. Half of them live wildly in the local national park reserves and the other half are domesticated and still perform work duties. According to studies by the Elephant Nature Park, there is an average of 300 elephants that still suffer mistreatment in large cities.
Visitors can assist at bath time at the river
An Asian elephant weighs around 3 to 5 tons, which in order to maintain its physical size, requires 200-300 kg of food per day (foliage and fruit) and more than 100 liters of water per day. That is, in large urban centers and without specific care the animals go hungry and thirsty. Stress, contact with pollution, noise disturbances on account of sensitive hearing, are just some of the additional tortures to which they are subjected daily.
Part of the daily feed of elephants
The Elephant has long been an important place in Thai culture and sacredness. However, they are not considered as wild animals in Thailand, so it is common for families to have their own elephants, using them for domestic and professional services.
How to visit Elephant Nature Park?
My experience with Elephant Nature Park started about two months ago, when I bought my ticket online. At least in the virtual world, the tour to Elephant Park Chiang Mai is well disputed, and there were not many places to book it. I do not know if it is possible to buy in Chiang Mai at any tourist agency.
Well fed and happy elephant at the park
I chose a Single Day tour, a program that includes transportation, visit and lunch (with Asian food and some international options). It is worth mentioning that the tour is all done in English. At the time of purchasing a ticket, it is important to inform the address of your lodging or to choose to show up organization’s office, located in Chiang Mai city centre. Need to pay only 50% to reserve the ticket online, and to cover the balance on the tour’s day. Volunteer work is also possible within the Elephant Nature Park for 7 days, with some fee.
Blind elephant that has been rescued from mistreatment
The tour starts early. A van with a capacity of 15 people does all the transfers. Inside the van is a well-documented film explaining the background and operation of the place. Upon arriving, the visitors are sent to the observation platform, where everything happens. This is the truly magical moment because it is the first contact we have with the animal. Soon the attendant accompanies the elephant next to the group and one at a time, each visitor can feed it with fruits.
Then we began to recognize the huge lawn where the elephant groups are. Everything is really very free and open, so it is recommended to have good sense at the time of interacting with the animal. We received instructions on how to approach and play.
Mud bath time
In the afternoon, we took the elephants to bathe in the river inside the park. Each visitor gets a bucket. I confess it was the most fun time of the tour. It’s also very cool to see how they play in the mud. It is important to remember to go in comfortable clothes that can get wet, as we enter the river along with the elephants at bath time. Moreover, sunscreen and mosquito repellent are required items.
As a conscious traveler, I think it is important to invest our time and effort in entities that we truly believe in. While I was there, I could see their commitment to the animals closely. Having a direct contact with the elephants was a unique and unforgettable experience in my life!
Author: Thatiane Ferrari