Elephant Nature Park: Ethical Sanctuary in Chiang Mai
Upon arriving to Thailand, tourists will see tons of elephant riding advertisements. And after arriving to one of these elephant parks, one might witness these wise, endangered creatures walking around with between 2 or 3 people on their back at a time.
However, the Elephant Nature Park Sanctuary located in Chiang Mai, does not promote their company by doing this and instead spreads awareness of these endangered animals, their conditions, and how they should be treated. They are a wonderful company worth checking out. Here’s why:
1) The Elephant Nature Park shows visitors two documentaries on the dire situation in Thailand, regarding the elephants. There are only about 3,000 wild elephants left in Thailand and they are quickly dissipating due to poaching. The Elephant Nature Park’s job is to rehabilitate the animals that cannot be put back into the wild and allow them to live their lives out in peace at the sanctuary.
2) There is absolutely no riding of the elephants in this sanctuary. The tour guide thoughtfully explains the spine of an elephant, and shows the results of riding these poor creatures. Their spine is rounded and cannot support the weight of a saddle and people on their back, so many of the rescued elephants have flattened spines from being forced into riding during their early years. Some of them also have broken feet from carrying too much cargo on their backs.
3) The tour guide also explains the process of “breaking the elephant” for riding and socialization that many of the unethical companies use. The elephants endure heavy abuse when they are set up for tourism and are whipped into submission. The Elephant Nature Park organization combats this practice and solely uses positive reinforcement to socialize their elephants.
4) Also, the elephant sanctuary sets each elephant up with an individual caretaker, with a personality that complements the elephant, so they can eventually trust, listen, and respect their keeper. It is amazing to watch the connection between the elephant and his/ her keeper.
5) The Elephant Nature Park sanctuary also has a volunteer program, so individuals can stay for one day, one week, or longer and help bathe, feed, and walk with these beautiful creatures. This Elephant Nature Park relies heavily on donations and volunteers to keep up with these large bundles of love.
This organization instills the idea of bonding with and respecting these creatures as a human social responsibility, rather than jumping on their backs and taking selfies. Although, there are tons of photo opportunities at the nature park, they just ask that the tourists do not use flash as it can be startling and blinding to the animals.
Overall, it will be an incredibly enlightening and heartfelt experience, so take a chance and check it out!