Elephant Nature Park: A Sanctuary, and Rehabilitation center
Updated: Jan 21, 2019
Who doesn’t love elephants? I mean seriously. I don’t think i’d trust you if you said you didn’t. They’re majestic, beautiful and intelligent animals, but the history of Elephants in Thailand is a long, complicated and sad journey. So before you hop on the elephant's back for an IG pic, keep reading .
History of Elephants in Thailand
For years elephants were used in labour, war, and they played a substantial role in the tourism industry. Thai elephants were captured and trained to be a form of transport and heavy labour otherwise known as logging. In 1921 King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) decreed in the Wild Elephant Protection Act that all wild elephants were the property of the government, and would be overseed by the Department of the Interior as the King's representative.
Unfortunately elephant riding is still a huge part of the tourist industry. But what most tourists don’t know or possibly ignore is the rough conditions these beautiful animals are subjected to. Sometimes taken from families, or dangerously trained, elephants that are raised in these environments are always treated unfairly and are used as a quick way to make money.
When we first planned our trip to Thailand, we knew we wanted to see Thai elephants but we wouldn’t give our money to just any company with the possibility of them having bad practices, and poor living conditions. We sought out to find a sanctuary or rehabilitation center. That’s how we found the Elephant Nature Park located in Northern Thailand.
Elephant Nature Park
The Elephant Nature Park is a beautiful sanctuary tucked away in the mountains of Chiang Mai. Their mission is to rescue and rehabilitate elephants who have been injured from logging (which although illegal still continues), landmine accidents or who have been orphaned. Their priority is the welfare and health of the animals. Volunteers there feed, bathe and visit some of their oldest and gentile elephants.
The day begins with a pick up at your hotel. The ride is about an hour from the city of Chiang Mai and on the way they show you a video of the founder of the park speaking about the history of elephants. She discusses life at the park and how they have excelled with their mission to rescue elephants. When you arrive you go over the ground rules and the itinerary for the day. Although the animals have been trained, they reminded us about just how powerful and dangerous they can be if they feel threatened.
We then began feeding and moved around the park to learn about some of their oldest inhabitants. ENP has over 100 elephants living on the open land premises ranging from all ages. Some were babies who have been discovered orphaned from their mothers while other were much older and had stepped on landmines leading to severe injuries.
Next was bath time. We were taken to the river and given buckets to throw water. Elephants are constantly bathing themselves and throwing mud and dirt on their skin to cool them off and protect them from the sun.
The day ended with a delicious lunch prepared by their chefs and included traditional thai food, which was delicious and well needed after a long hot day.
If you plan on going to Thailand we completely suggest visiting Elephant Nature Park. The staff was very kind and the elephants exceeded every expectation we had. They picked us up on time and kept to their schedule of the day and the food they offered for lunch was delicious. Make sure you listen to the staff.. one volunteer in our group put her bag down and one of the baby boy elephants came charging us! He thought it was time to play...
If you choose to go to a different park, check and make sure that their practices are ethical and that the staff’s priority is the well being of the animals not the money.
For more information please visit https://www.elephantnaturepark.org
And if you’d like to learn more about the harsh conditions elephants are subjected to in the wilderness and in other parks visit https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-40501667