Do not ride elephants…

…or support any other activity that involves those incredible beings. This cannot be stressed enough! We are fascinated by these amazing creatures and feel this need to be close to them. However, to train elephants for the circus, for riding and trekking and to make them compliant to work for the wood logging industry, street begging and the likes it takes lifelong abuse, torture and confinement.

So if you’re going to Thailand and you are looking for an experience with those gentle beings please seek out a place like Elephant Nature Park: a sanctuary for elephants with the most tragic and absolutely heartbreaking stories. Thanks to the incredible Lek Chailert they can spend the rest of their lives in an incredibly beautiful, peaceful and safe environment just outside Chiang Mai (Thailand). All the saved elephants were taken from their families, have been used and abused one way or another for most of their lives, and here, they have found a new home where they can form new families: they adopt each other, care for each other, look out for each other, they can create the strong bonds among each other that elephants are meant to have with their families – human families don’t even compare to that.

IMG_4925_FotorThanks to Lek’s tireless effort, the size of the park grows and more and more trekking camps follow her lead and change the way they operate. My friend Theresa and I were lucky enough to spend a day at the park in January. We followed the families around, watched them play, bathe in the river, communicate with each other and go about their lives. We splashed them with water, fed them with tons of fruit and got to know them.

Some of the elephants are so horribly deformed and will never fully recover from the physical damage that has been done to them, let alone the mental damage. We met the blind elephant lady who was crying at the smell of a human baby, being reminded of her own baby that she had lost – blind because both of her eyes had been shot. We witnessed a baby elephant that was saved from street begging go absolutely mental at the sound of a truck driving by. We watched an elephant angrily pace up and down a path, waiting for trekkers to come by – and one day he will go after them…

Each and every elephant is traumatised in a way that is truly gruesome and one can only thank the universe and kind-hearted people like Lek, her staff, donors and volunteers that they ended up in this sacred haven, together with over 400 rescued dogs, countless cats and a huge herd of water buffalos.

Elephants are highly intelligent, social and gentle beings. If we want to make a difference for them, we have to stop supporting the circus and elephant riding and trekking camps, and start supporting organisations like Elephant Nature Park. Educate yourself and teach your children what’s right!

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