Our recent trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand was a chance to relax. There are sights to see, but we passed this time around and instead lazed about the pool, got some spa treatments, and enjoyed some good food.
Our only day trip was to the Elephant Park. This was a park set up by a very kind woman name Lek, as a place to rescue elephants.
It seems there used to be a thriving logging industry in Thailand, and the elephants were used as labor. But, seeing the writing on the wall that cutting down all the trees was a really bad idea ( it made a region with bad flooding, that much worse) Thailand suddenly found itself with a lot of elephants with no place to go (much of the forest had been cut down for logging, of course)
So, she set up a rescue, and currently has about 30+ elephants on here property that she and a lot of volunteers look after. http://www.elephantnaturepark.org/
Tourists can help support her efforts and get up close with the elephants which is a pretty cool idea. Her training methods are also much more humane than the absurdly cruel methods used to typically train the elephants for labor.
You arrive in the morning and immediately start offering morning snacks to the elephants. Then, once you have the hang of it, a full feeding for the pack occurs. Then a buffet lunch (for the people, not the elephants) followed by a trip to the river to wash the elephants. It seems they apply mud to keep cool, and keep the bugs off. Every day they get a bath, after which the promptly go to a mud pit to reapply fresh mud…hrumph.
There’s a short video that talks about Lek’s efforts, and some footage of how the elephants are traditionally trained for labor. After seeing that, you will never want to ride a tourist elephant again. The in-human way they are treated to break their spirit is heartbreaking. It’s not training, it’s torture.
But, these lucky few have found a new home, and hopefully attitudes will change in time. It was a very educational trip, a fun way to spend our one outing for the trip 🙂