May 19, 2010


i spent a few days at the sanctuary in the north of Thailand.  i took hundreds of photos as the elephants were so accessible.  the Elephant Nature Park is an exceptional facility that provides food and shelter and love for elephants who have been tortured and abused by thier handlers.  although there is no official breeding program a few elephants have been produced naturally.  this is the only park in Thailand that educates people about the 'traditional breaking' of elephants at the age of three which involves crushing them in a small enclosure and using sticks with nails on the ends to train them to respond to commands.  the documentary makes me cry.

it's a lot of work to feed and tend the elephants and during my days there we sort huge piles of bananas and cucumbers and pumpkins.  we feed them constantly during the day and bathe the elephants in the river.  riding is not allowed [except by the mahout].  the guys go to a local farm to cut the harvested corn stalks that are a part of the elephant diet.  it's a phenomenal experience as we walk the property that these elephants roam around on and get to know the families they have formed and thier handlers [mahouts]. 

this tiny lady, Lek, is the one who started and runs this wonderful organization. what a SHERO! people from around the world pay for the opportunity to come and volunteer to work with the animals.  the work is not easy but the people i meet here are as exceptional as the facility.  one guy i meet has been on a couple of Sea Shepard campaigns.  unfortunately because of the military/red shirt conflict cancellations are running at about 60% and the ecotourism they rely on is diminishing rapidly.
the Thai people and thier relationship with elephants is very complicated.  they are considered sacred but are also a huge source of income for families and this leads to the usage of elephants for treks and street begging from tourists that compounds the abuse.  if you visit Thailand or have a friend visiting Thailand please educate them on the elephant abuses which the tourists have the power to end.

this is baby girl [Fae Maa] who is just one year old.

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