One of the things that had me most excited about my journey to Thailand was the potential of engaging with the elephants. I wanted to get up and go closer to these lovely regal beasts. I wanted to witness them going through the bush and blowing water from their trunks like in NatGeo videos and documentaries.
What I didn’t understand was that like any wildlife tourism, you have to be extremely careful to do it responsibly. Pink photographs are still being pushed around by tourism promotions of travelers having fun with animals, but it’s also our obligation to make sure we’re putting our money in the hands of organizations that make their lives better, not worse.
That’s why in Thailand I won’t go to the Tiger Kingdom where tigers are drugged (despite though most tourist people swear high and low that they aren’t. Do you honestly believe a tiger adult wouldn’t scratch your face disabled? Go on then ) and don’t participate in most elephant activities that entail anything other than washing and feeding them (read between the lines – there are only two activities to perform with elephants, and none include a chair or its back) (read between the lines – there are only two activities to do with elephants, and none involve a chair or its back).
In Indonesia, I’ve made careful to hire a guide that doesn’t feed the orangutans, and I only collaborate with diving businesses that have green practices and don’t touch or feed the fish. If there are no laws in place, all we can do is indicate with our cash how essential ethical tourism is.
People will frequently comment, “They didn’t appear sad!” or “They looked fantastic!” elephants working in tourism, but honestly, how can you know if an elephant, an orangutan, a fish, or a tiger is unhappy or happy?
Regrettably, any tamed elephant has gone through a terrible procedure to reach to this level. They are abducted around the age of four and put in a tiny enclosure, tied up, and pushed, pushed, and drilled for days in order to make them comply. Throughout the remainder of their lives, they are normally controlled with the same style of the stick, with a hook at the end. It’s not something I want to support.
That’s why I was pleased to observe wild elephants in Sri Lanka on a safari, but it always left me hoping there was a way to go closer to them.
What I didn’t realize was that there is an ethical way to play with rehabilitated elephants — those harmed in neighboring Myanmar’s logging business, exploited by tourists, and made to beg for food. money from visitors, or were forced to fend for themselves after the end of the timber sector in Thailand.
The Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai is a sanctuary for recovered elephants. They have lots of areas to walk about, wash and enjoy. Each gets a dedicated, stick-free mahout that ensures the elephant is happy and healthy.
They receive the chance to actually be elephants again — mingling, creating groups, and occasionally giving birth to kids. As the ENP does not put its elephants through the domestication process, these youngsters eventually receive a chance to return to the wild, where there are very few elephants remaining in Thailand and across the world.
These elephants are no longer frightened by sticks or hooks, no longer have to labor, and obtain all the wonderful fruit they need on a daily basis (which is a lot!). Several of them were sick, had broken bones, were no longer functional in a job setting, and would have perished if the ENP had not been there to save them.
The grounds are also equipped with an elephant cuisine, an elephant hospital, and overnight and week-long volunteer lodging — numerous volunteering choices are offered.
Additionally, ENP demonstrates that elephants should not be harmed if they misbehave. They employ positive reinforcement – food – to get the elephants where they need to go, rather than hooks and sticks. Elephants have personalities, likes, and dislikes, much like people.
I honestly thought it rather humorous that some elephants only ate watermelon after they completed the pumpkin first, or that to encourage them to follow us, we just had to walk, and they would finally understand that they were losing the fun and more food by not following.
In addition, the natural park is home to dogs and cats. It truly is a haven for all types of animals who need new homes.
It was one of the nicest things I’ve done in Thailand. I have now spent over 4 combined months there and before to this trip I was yearning to play with elephants but did not know of an ethical manner to do so. Now that I have visited the natural park firsthand, I know that they do a terrific job and do not hesitate to tie my blog and my name to theirs.
Check out the Elephant Nature Park if you go to Thailand. It is guaranteed to become one of your favorite souvenirs.
In the interest of full transparency, I was a visitor at Elephant Nature Park, there to assist them to spread the word about this fantastic cause. They didn’t ask me to write a good review, but even if they did, it would have been absolutely worthless because everyone who visits adores ENP (don’t believe me? Check out their TripAdvisor reviews!)
You may have spotted me in the past when I was talking about Sri Lanka, referencing a travel blogging calendar, the revenues of which went to this same organization. I am glad to inform you that we raised and gave $7,500 to assist them to acquire new land.
Have you ever been to ENP? Did you like it?