Our trip to Thailand wouldn’t be complete with out some sort of elephant experience. I began researching and came across 100’s of different places throughout Thailand that you could choose from. While reading a few of my favorite travel blogs I came across Alex’s post about The Elephant Nature Park. After comparing it with a few other parks it was easy to make the choice. This elephant sanctuary in Thailand provides an amazing and educational experience while practicing great ecotourism.
Elephant Nature Park is really a sanctuary whose main focus is creating a natural safe haven for elephants from Thailand who have been injured, abused or both, due to the expanse of the tourism and the ending of the logging industry which leaves them useless to families who can’t afford to care for them. They also help rebuild the land and provide care for several hundreds of homeless dogs (my heaven!).
Many of the rescued elephants have physical scarring of their abused past. Others had very visible handicaps from the variety of work they were forced into. In the park, the elephants make their own families, or herds. The park has nothing to do with it, other than making sure they are suitable to be around elephants safely. The amazing thing about this is that all the handicapped elephants chose to form their own family! They had a member with a stiff leg, another with a large foot injury from stepping on landmine and even one with a dipped spine from tourist riding for over 20 years. The stories we were told about each elephant grew harder to hear as the day went on. To witness the personalities and playfulness of each elephant made it difficult to believe regardless of the physical evidence and scars left by their horrible past.
The first elephant rescued was Mae Perm. She had a difficult past and her baby was taken from her far too soon and injured her previous owner because of it. Jokia came to the park years later with a horrific past and she is now blind due to being stabbed in her eyes. (I know, I’m sorry) Well upon her arrival, Mae Perm took her under her care. They have been completely inseparable since. Mae Perm is Jokia’s eyes. When we came upon them, Jokia stayed back while Mae Perm came and checked out each individual in our group (there were 10 of us). When I say checked out I mean came up, pushed against you. She made a deep low noise at Wade until his sunglasses were removed! She gave the all clear to Jokia and the love fest began. Jokia was just the sweetest of all the elephants we met that day. The others were kind and full of personality but truthfully if you were out of treats, they were off to explore the grounds and enjoy their freedom. Jokia only wanted to snuggle and enjoy your company, no treats needed.
This experience changed me. It was beyond perfect day and impacted both our lives forever. I’m so happy that I was able to have this day with Wade since he is not always around to join in on my adventures. I’m also happy that I took the time to find a place that would bring more than entertainment to our trip.
:::stepping on my internet soapbox:::
One of the important things to take away from this is ecotourism. Even when you are traveling your actions and money greatly effect the environment, wildlife and people that surround you. Make sure when you make your travel arrangements that your money is going towards the good that is going on in the world.
Thailand is a developing country and there are lots of opportunities for activities that benefit the further growth and well being of this stunning country. Unfortunately, there are just as many enticing activities that don’t. We could have gone to a park where we rode elephants, took pictures with baby tigers and even spent some time with a northern hill tribes people. It didn’t take much time for me to come across in my research which places were looking out for the welfare of all and the ones that were looking to make money. I doubt a happy healthy tiger will lay there for hours to be cuddled and kissed on a chain without being sedated. The hill tribes have changed their practices with time but still use disfigurement on select young girls to display and to attract tourist. Please think critically at home and when traveling about the businesses you support.
OK, here are some more happy elephants.