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Monday, April 21, 2014

A Day Well-Spent in Elephant Nature Park

Aside from witnessing the Yi Peng lantern festival, this was the other activity I want to accomplish during my Chiang Mai visit. I want to spend some time with the elephants. Though I've been traveling around Asia for quite some time now, I've never checked out an elephant place yet nor ridden one. It's not that I find it too touristic to do, but more of I don't support that kind of activity. I am an animal rights activist, sort of.

The Elephant Nature Park

We were picked-up from our guest house at 8:00 AM. The park is about an hour and a half from the center of Chiang Mai, 60 kms north to be exact. On our way, our guide gave us an introduction about the park and how it all started. We also watched a documentary about some of the elephants they rescued. I was so trying hard not to cry. But my heart was really broken into pieces seeing how they were mistreated by humans. Sigh.

tons of bananas

When we arrived, the first thing we did was feeding. They showed us their stock room filled with all the food they give to the elephants. There were bananas, squashes and watermelons.

and squashes

Then we were lead to the feeding area. First thing you have to do is wash your hands. They have sinks dedicated for hand washing. This is to make sure that your hands were clean and chemical free before handing the food to the elephants. There were 2-4 persons in each food baskets and we took turns on feeding them. They were so cute when they're hungry. ;)

chomp chomp chomp

After the first feeding session, we were toured to the the other parts of the park.We were also introduced to every elephant we saw. Each of them has a unique story.

Have you seen an elephant tooth? We did! And I couldn't believe it is this huge!

elephant tooth!

They also have a veterinarian who takes care of the elephants especially those with special conditions or needing medical attention. I was able to feed this blind elephant in their Medicine Room. A lot of them that ended up in this sanctuary were blind. Most of them were those rescued from illegal logging activities.

According to the guide believe it or not, their former owners intentionally did that to them. When the elephants disobey them, they would shoot them in the eye because when they go blind, they believe that they have no choice but to follow their lead. Yeah, it was that sad. :(

mud bath to cool themselves off :)

taking advantage of the scratching post

Here at the park, it was nice seeing them free, well taken care of and happy. They deserve all these after getting abused and tortured. Nobody deserves being treated that bad, not even animals.

Lek (on left), the founder of ENP

Lek Chailert started her efforts back in 1996 but it was only in 2003 that the Elephant Nature Park (ENP) at this location has opened. Her work emphasizes on rescue and conservation. She is known for rescuing distressed elephants all throughout Thailand. Her exceptional efforts have already been recognized worldwide.

This park is located in a valley surrounded by mountains and a river. It is a perfect place for these animals for them to heal and to live freely.

they get to choose their own family

Since they were all rescued from different places, when they get here at the park, they technically don't have a family. There was actually this one old elephant there which according to guide don't have friends (family). He's mostly by himself. He is moody and can't seem to make friends with the others. He probably had a painful past.

the river, you know what that means?

You guessed it right! The next activity that we had was the bathing of elephants!

so excited :)

The mahouts took the group of elephants we're going to bathe to the river. Each of us were given a little bucket to use. We really enjoyed splashing water to their big bodies until they were clean enough.

they loved it!

The guide hurriedly asked us to go pose for a photo with this 2 elephants facing each other. He said it looks like the one in the Chang Beer logo haha.

us with these beautiful creatures

The elephants seemed to be very happy after being fed and bathed. Can you see their smiling faces or is it only me who sees that?

happy elephants

After some playtime, it was time for them to eat again. We fed them with just fresh fruits this time. I can get used to these activities in the park.

snack time eh?

They do not house only elephants. They also have a shelter for dogs which were rescued during the 2011 flooding. So don't be surprised if you see a lot of them roaming around the park. They put on a special collar on the aggressive dogs so that you will know which are okay to pet and which are not.

Beau with one of the rescued dogs

This is a whole-day activity so it was tiring. But for me, it was all worth it. I didn't mind being under the sun, walking in the mud or handing food to their mouth. I was just happy that I was able to help taking care of them even just for a day.

my favorite picture at the park :)

I know not everyone thinks like me. Some people would prefer to go riding them or watch them perform tricks in the streets or in circus. I have nothing against you if you are one of those people. I  just like to suggest this activity to everyone and see the good of this cause. I hope you'll also realize the pain these animals have go through before learning those tricks you enjoy to watch or before they get used to having humans riding them for entertainment.

Please pay these rescued elephants a visit if you happen to go to Chiang Mai on your next trip. You may check to see what you can do to help. Thank you so much! :)

"The assumption that animals are without rights and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality." ~Schopenhauer

This is Part 5 of my Chiang Mai travel series.

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