Elephant Nature Park: Elephant Rescue and Rehabilitation

Friday, 20 January 2017 Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand

This post is part of my people doing amazing things series where I highlight people all over the world trying to make it a better place.
Elephants have virtually no rights in Thailand, they're treated like livestock despite being very emotional and intelligent animals which means people can pretty much use them for what they want with no consequences.
This means that it's very hard to rescue and look after mistreated Elephants, but that's where Elephant Nature Park come in, they buy injured and old elephants off their mahouts and give them a better life at once of their centres where they're fed, looked after and where they never have to do work or get mistreated by humans.
Back in June I spent 2 weeks just outside of Chiang Mai at Elephant Nature park and getting to see these beautiful creatures up close and to work with them (even if a lot of that was cleaning up their poop) was amazing.

When I visited there were a total of 72 Elephants at the park outside of Chiang Mai which means a lot of food to prepare and an awful lot of poop to clean.
Daily tasks included unloading 4 tonnes of watermelons from trucks (yes they eat that a day), preparing soft foods for the old elephants who have no teeth; picking up poop; weeding the park; and going to cut corn in local farms.
People also just visit for the day or over night and get to wash the elephants helps with their tics, and give them some food.
As volunteers the work you're doing isn't anything revolutionary but it helps to relieve the work of the mahouts and other workers in the centre and it also helps keep the centre running through paying to be there.
I went in pretty damn uneducated bout Thailand but I learnt so much: about the treatment of elephants; about monks; about people's daily life; about the school system; about mahouts' lives; about the royal family. And I have to say the owner of Elephant nature park, Lek, is one of the most inspirational and motivated person I have ever met. She's dedicated her life to helping the elephants of Thailand and she's doing so much for them.
The elephants who arrive at the park have been abused and mistreated, they have to to be of any use to humans, but slowly they're helped back. Each elephant gets to chose their own mahout, or rather they're put with a mahout that they get on with, and they're dedicated to them for the rest of their life. Spending all day with them and making sure they don't get themselves into trouble (there are multiple herds in the Park and elephants can be drama queens).
You can tell the mahouts that have good relationships with their elephants, you can see the love they have for each other and the strongest bond had to be between Jang Pen and her mahout Patee. They've been together for an incredibly long time and every morning Patee puts a flower in a hole Jang Pen's ear which was made by a hook. She looks very cute with it.
Things aren't perfect, Lek said herself there is more she wants to do for them and aspects she wants to improve, but it's a better life than one being ridden by humans day after day or forced to paint and perform tricks for us.
But it's not just elephants the centre helps, after the floods in Thailand in 2011 there were hundreds of pets left in homes that people just couldn't save but the park went out and took them in. They have over 200 cats and 400 dogs and take in more and more. You can even become a dog volunteer (which is much cheaper than volunteering with the elephants but you still get to meet them) and many people who have volunteered at the centre have adopted a dog and taken them home.
I got to walk a few of the dogs while I was there, I mean with 400 dogs there's a lot of walking to do, and they were all so sweet and so excited to go out. I also met a few dogs who were so so scared which is extremely sad but it's amazing knowing that people are taking care of them and they might have a proper home one day.
The park is also home to load of buffalo who were saves from slaughter houses and who are very cute, it's a busy place.
And lastly they help the local people too, I felt a bit weird visiting the local school but every Friday they host a heap of volunteers and make crafts and food for them, the older kids had definitely lost the want to entertain tourists but some of the little ones were very excited to show me what they were making which was super sweet.
The centre also makes sure to try and pay the mahouts and other workers at the centre well, the wage for these jobs in Thailand is pretty minimal but the centre works with the mahouts to support their families with rice every month as well as paying them more than they'd get in other similar jobs.
Basically I've just raved about the place for a post, but they are doing an amazing job and I learnt so so much and become incredibly inspired in my two weeks there, Lek made me feel like anything was possible and it's part of the reason i decided to change the way my blog was going.
There are so many other posts I can and will write about elephants and the park which are to come in the next week and further in the future (I won't make it all about elephants for now I'll save some for later on) but for now I'll just leave you with this rave review and the video below which shows a bit what I got up to during my stay there.

So I hoped you enjoyed this post, there are a few more to come in the next couple of weeks before I leave elephants behind for a while (I promise they'll be back) and move onto Cambodia. I'll be talking more about why elephants shouldn't be ridden and about some of my favourites at the park, including a 2 month old, and how wonderful elephants are. I have so much to talk about, there were so may wonderful experiences crammed into two weeks. But that's it from me for this post. Hope you have a wonderful weekend!
Oh and if there's anything in particular you want to know about Elephants or a bit more about Thailand then let me know and I might just make a post about it.
Thanks for reading!

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