The Elephant Nature Park
November 21, 2013
In Thai History, Elephants represented royalty, strength and peace. Sadly, when it became big business to cut down the rain forest in the 1970s and until the 1990s, elephants were used as the main source of labor to move and transport the trees. The Owners were not always kind. Many elephants were over worked, under fed, neglected, shot-up with “speed” to work longer hours or given a dose of opium to keep them calm in a crowd. Baby Elephants are big money on the black market. When a female was too hurt to work in the logging areas then she would be caged and forced to mate with male elephants. Some elephants fight back and find themselves subjected to stab wounds in their eyes, which leads to blindness.
In 1996, Sangduen Chailert (Lek) & Adam Flinn founded and started the Elephant Nature Park. She created a refuge for older, neglected, sick and unwanted elephants. I call it “heaven on earth” for elephants. It is not a huge reserve, but Lek is strict about keeping visitor numbers low so that most of the land is used for the elephants.
The setting is a beautiful lush valley with a river running through it. The grounds are well maintained and comfortable lodging for volunteers & guests with 3 wonderful vegetarian buffet meals. The lodge is like a huge tree house so you can view the elephants from all directions. The Staff is friendly and speak good English. Apple was our guide and teacher. We learned so much! Thank you Apple, we LOVE you! Lek (owner) was there working everyday and very approachable! She is so pretty!
I will forever remember my first close encounter with Medo. Medo was rescued by Lek in 2006. She had been horribly abused and worked since the age of 8 years old. Her back legs were broken and never set properly which left her unable to work and forced to mate. (read more about Medo) Although considered a medium sized elephant she seemed very large in size as we approached. As massive as some elephants are they immediately give you sense of their personality. Medo waddled over to us slowly and with some intimidation we approached and touched. Elephant skin is very rough and seemingly thick. It has small stiff little hairs and many wrinkles and folds. Their eyes are small and dark with long eyelashes.
Despite her life of abuse by humans, she was a gentle soul that accepted our attention and was patient for pictures and willing to be up close and personal.
Not all of the elephants are good with humans. They all have different personalities and I was super surprised to find myself recognizing the different elephants within hours. Watch out for “Naughty Boy” he is a trouble maker or Jokia, a gentle and blind lady that lost her baby and her eyesight to an abusive owner and her adopted Grand Mother, Mae Perm, . The two are now inseparable.
A life changing experience for me and my family. We will forever look at Elephants at the circus and zoo with a new understanding and empathy. Be sure to add the Elephant Nature Park to your “Bucket List” … you will never forget the experience. Enjoying the climb.