Today I spent the day with elephants. And it was one of the best days ever! Seriously, ever. I have been looking forward to this day not only for the experience, but also for the opportunity to share information on this subject matter.
While I don’t want to speak for everyone, I’m fairly confident that most people don’t hate elephants. They’re debatably the 4th most intelligent animal behind humans, dolphins and monkeys (the debate is whether or not dogs are smarter for the 4th spot) and are notorious for having excellent memories. As the largest animal in the world, they weigh an average of 3-4 tons and their trunks can lift up to 631 lbs. But despite their size and strength, elephants are generally known to be gentle and kind hearted animals. Representing Thailand’s national symbol, the elephants are a sign of good fortune and strength.
**Note, all this info is pertaining to Asian elephants, not their larger cousin the African elephant, which people are generally more familiar with**
But elephants are being mistreated. While it started a long time ago for war and logging, it is still a massive problem in Thailand and Asia today and uninformed tourists are helping to contribute to the problem. Elephants are ridden by tourists, used to perform in the circus, used as pets on the street so tourists will give money, forced into breeding, used for labor in the logging industry, among many other things. To train these massive animals, the elephants are beaten and stabbed repeatedly until they literally have no will to live. I will not post any pictures or videos here because I would like this post to remain positive, but I think it’s extremely important that people are educated on this topic.
If you come to Thailand or any other place with elephant tourism, please do your research! Any time that a person can ride an elephant means that they were beaten. There are no exceptions to this. They are wild animals and for a human to be able to ride them is unnatural. They have been beaten and tortured since birth. But there are other options! Elephant Nature Park (ENP) being one of them! ENP is a sanctuary for rescued elephants. All have been orphaned by horror stories, saved from tourism, or have been rehabilitated from injuries (mainly due to landmines in bordering countries). An amazing and ambitious woman named Lek started this passion project back in 1995 with four elephants and it has now grown into her life’s work of over 300 acres of land that is home to more than 50 elephants (each with an individual name and story) as well as 200 rescued cats, 400 rescued dogs, and 80 water buffalo and cows saved from slaughter houses.
This place is heaven on earth.
We spent the morning feeding the elephants which was AWESOME. I would’ve been content staying there for the entire day feeding them all 300 lbs of food they eat per day. No, that is not a typo. Each elephant eats THREE HUNDRED POUNDS OF FOOD PER DAY.
**Only their handlers can feed them without something in between them and the elephants. The elephants aren’t behind bars, those are just railings**
Next we went to get a little more up close and personal!
I have no idea why I didn’t take notes on all of their names and stories. I was sure I’d remember them but after a long day full of so much fun and so many emotions hearing all of the devastating stories, I can’t remember the names of everyone.
Next we met Jokia, an elephant blind from being stabbed in the eye while she was being beaten. After going blind, the other elephant took her under its wing and acts as her eyes. The most heartwarming story ever!
We spent the day learning about elephants and hearing many of the stories of the elephants at the park. There is extensive rehabilitation both physically and mentally for these animals to recover from. There is a full time vet for the park as well as volunteer vets and students. There are also many people who come to volunteer for a period of time to do general care for the animals, which anyone can do! We met some of the elephants and had to see some from a distance, as they were more aggressive.
In the afternoon we got to go into the river with them and bathe them! It’s important for the elephants to bathe because it cools them off. After they bathe they immediately get muddy again to protect themselves from the hot Thai sun.
This post doesn’t do justice to the horrible things that happen to the animals. There were so many stories shared today and it was a mix of emotions ranging from shock and horror to complete and utter euphoria. These creatures are absolutely magnificent and they deserve better than what they are getting- and not only because they are endangered.
I beg you to please, please, please do your research before doing things like elephant treks and tiger kingdoms. The only way to stop this is to educate people to stop going and shutting down the industry. Every little bit helps!
For more information on this topic, here is a documentary! It’s an hour long but you can also scroll through the page to get some bullet points on the whole thing. This one is a little more condensed. There is also a lot of great information on elephants plus the specific elephants at the park at the ENP website.
I don’t want this to sound preachy- but after a day like today it’s hard not to feel so strongly about it! Today was a day that I will never ever forget. Kind of like an elephant’s memory. 😉