Elephant rescuing in elephant nature parks such as Elephant Jungle Sanctuary near Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand is an incredible selfless project. It plays an important role as Thailand’s most sustainable and nature-friendly tourist attraction. It’s a place that rescues Asian elephants from captivation, riding camps, zoos and other places where these magnificent animals are mistreated.
We, as tourists, contribute to both sides of this story. One side – riding elephants – makes us being cruel to the animal, but other one – supporting their rescue and wellbeing is uplifting and good.
Why you shouldn’t ride elephants in Thailand
Riding elephants in Thailand might seem like a thrilling experience at first. Who wouldn’t enjoy riding the jungle on top of the massive strong elephant? This for sure seems like a TOP must-do activity in Thailand for many of us, same as horseback riding in Texas or camel riding in Egypt.
I was thinking the same before I came to Thailand and before I know what it takes to train an elephant to carry people on their backs. There are so many people who have ridden them not knowing they do bad to the animal.
It might be hard to believe given the size of an elephant, but their backs are not designed to carry a human weight. After a while this kind of activity causes pain to an elephant and their spinal bone structure can collapse.
Elephant training to carry humans
Fully grown wild elephants will never let humans on top of them. So in order to train an elephant, they are caught and separated from their mothers as babies. Afterwards they undergo a brutal training.
At first they are kept in a small space, either a cage or a hole in the ground, where they are unable to move. The are being starved, kept sleepless for days, beaten and stabbed with sharp sticks until their wild animal spirit dies.
After that they are trained for different tricks, to entertain public. Elephants are highly intelligent animals with a good memory. They never forget how they were treated.
When the elephant is grown up and participates in riding camps, jungle treks or different entertainment shows, it’s still being mistreated but not being stabbed anymore. But as elephants never forget the past, they live in fear of being stabbed again and obey to human orders.
What is an Elephant Jungle Sanctuary?
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary describes themselves as an ethical and sustainable eco-tourism project. It was first founded in 2014 and currently has 7 camps located approximately 60 km from Chiang Mai city.
Tourists are welcome to visit these camps for a half day or day tours, or even longer volunteering. As this is a non-profit organisation, it uses all the income to be able to feed animals and have them living in a proper environment.
An average elephant needs at least 200 kg food every day!
Creation of elephant nature parks and elephant rescue is one of the greatest sustainable initiatives I’ve ever heard of for a very important reason. This elephant nature park Elephant Jungle Sanctuary is a result of initiative by two groups who were concerned of welfare of elephants in Thailand – Chiang Mai locals and Karen hill-tribes.
People, who are in the need for help themselves, are doing selflessly good for others
Involvement by Karen hill-tribes in this mission is what moves me the most in this story. Karen people originally resides in Myanmar but due to unstable situation in their own country, many of them have fled to Thailand to seek asylum. They are living in Northern Thailand as refugees without much right for education and work.
So this is just a touching example how those who need help the most themselves are selflessly helping others. Read more about our visit to Karen Tribe and their incredible story HERE!
What is the elephant experience in the Jungle Sanctuary like?
Camps of Elephant Jungle Sanctuary allows rescued elephants live a happy life. They are not kept captive and can freely walk around, play with each other and have proper feeding.
When I was on the way to visit one of the camps, I was wondering how it’s going to be. If I will be able to go close to Elephants? Will they be dangerous? Will I even got to touch them?
Our experience there was magical!
Elephants are so friendly and playful. Once we were there, they came to us, greeted us and also kept playing with each other. We got to feed them bananas and sugarcane. If you have a banana in your hand, the elephant will stumble around you until he gets his banana or sugar cane. They were the cutest exactly at those moments.
Elephants in camps have large muddy areas where to play around, cool down and get dirty. We got a chance to give them a mud SPA and then wash them off in the natural spring. The feeling of a happy Elephant splashing you with water from its snook is so much better that repressing an animal and riding on top of it. Trust me!
Thru all of this experience I really saw a life and happiness in elephant’s eyes which made me thankful to be there at that moment. Once you know what it takes to do good and what to do bad, just make the right choice and help the word to be a bit better place! The less demand there will be to ride elephants, the number of tortured animals will decrease.
Thailand is such a great place that opened my eyes to many important, life changing and beautiful things. Read more about them HERE!