Thursday, February 19, 2009

Elephant Nature Park (Day 2)

We set out for a day at an elephant park but not just any elephant park, one that promotes conservation of the Asian elephant. This was truly the most moving day for me. I thought that I was just going to hang with some elephants but I came home with heart wrenching stories of the mistreatment of elephants. Several years ago the logging business was booming and most of the elephant population was used for this. Once the government placed a ban on logging many elephants were set free having never been in the wild. Many starved to death, were shot because they would forage on 'private' property or they were hit by cars. Some were taken to the streets of Chiang Mai and Bangkok to 'beg' for their mahouts (trainer) in order to get food.

The elephant camp or elephant trekking is a very popular attraction in Thailand but the torture that goes behind submission from an elephant is horrific. An elephant is taken from it's mother (sometimes not yet weaned) and placed in a bamboo cage that is no bigger than it's body. It is then beaten with sticks, jabbed with nails, starved, choked all in the name of "training" it. So the next time you see an elephant and thinks it's cool to purchase an elephant painting, think again! You do not know what happened to that elephant to make it paint. Nor do you know the severity of the "training" it received so that it would be tame enough for you to ride on it. God gave us these beautiful creatures to enjoy, not to torture. If you are brave enough to see, here is a link that describes the "training" process.

This is 8 year old, Hope, the 'cheeky' boy. Here's his story. He gave us quite the show when he was playing around with his 'Grandma', pushing against her and biting her ear. On our way to the park stories were told of Hope's naughty ways. A tourist group was rafting down the river and Hope was curious and went out to great them. The guide hit Hope with a stick, which had never been done to him before and he proceeded to knock the raft over with his trunk! The next day, the same guide came down with a different group and Hope stood on the bank throwing rocks at them. One of them hit the guide in the head! Cheeky, cheeky boy!
This is Jokia. Here is her story. What the story does not tell is how she was blinded. She was in the logging business and forced to push heavy logs uphill. She was pregnant and forced to work under arduous conditions. She was beaten so bad that she lost the baby that she was carrying. She gave birth and watched it roll down the hill. She was so grieved by this that she would not work. The owners took no pity on her and beat her to make her submit. She did not budge. They eventually shot arrows into her eyes to get her to move which inevitably blinded her.
This little fellow is one of two babies at the park. He's 9 months old and curious little guy. As he was led to the river for bathtime he couldn't help but to inspect some volunteers constructing a gazebo. He apparently made a visit to see them each time he came out for a bath. What luck that this little one was born into such a caring environment. If only the rest of the Thai elephant population could be so lucky.

There are 30 elephants total at the park, each with a different story. Among my favs are Maximus (Max) one of largest elephants in Thailand who was hit by an 18 wheeler, Lilly, a sweet elephant that was addicted to drugs and Medo, a female that was abused during the logging industry and forced to breed before she was old enough. The male elephant's weight ended up breaking her hips.

Lilly reaching for food
This was an experience that I will never forget. I will come back here someday and bring my boys to see these beautiful creatures. If you would like to support the Elephant Nature Park you can do so by going to the shop on their website. The price already includes shipping and ALL proceeds go to the care of these elephants and rescue of the abused. Please make a purchase to help the elephants!
Posted by Picasa