Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Elephant Nature Park

We gave ourselves a very nice Christmas present - a little early - and went for a day visit to the Elephant Nature Park. It's a sanctuary for 35 Asian elephants rescued from neglect and/or abuse at the hands of loggers, elephant trekking operations and people who use them for begging on the streets of Bangkok. The youngest one is a 7-month old male calf that was born in the park.

We did quite a bit of research into the elephant parks around Chiang Mai and came to the conclusion that Elephant Nature Park seemed to be the only park that doens't do elephant shows. In the shows, elephants are shown painting and doing all sorts of tricks. What the audience doens't know is that all these elephants have gone through an extremely painful and traumatising training that is designed to break its spirit completely. We saw a video of the training, and it was very distressing.

Luckily the elephants in the sanctuary are now happily roaming free within the confines of the park. We got to feed them sweetcorn, bananas and pumpkin. It was messy! We also helped give some of the gentle giants a bath and a scrub in the river. It was exhilarating seeing these majestic creatures go belly up and floating down the stream with smiles on their faces. A cheeky juvenile sprayed a couple of the park visitors and gave everyone brave enough to take it a very wet and slubbery kiss.

The scars on the elephants' bodies undoubtedly act as a reminder of the sad fates of many Asian elephants in Thailand. These individuals are the lucky ones who have found respite in this wonderful park. We felt very privileged to spend time with the herd and loved every minute of it!