ELEPHANT NATURE PARK

Elephant Nature Park is an elephant rescue and rehabilitation center in Chiang Mai-Northern Thailand where you can volunteer and visit to help out with caring for the elephants. 

The 39 elephants at E.N.P are all rescued elephants, saved from various tourists camps, shows and illegal logging mills, where they are forced to work from the age of 4 until death. (Asian elephants can live up to 80 years of age).

When logging was banned due to an alarming rate of deforestation in Thailand over 20 years ago; the mahouts (elephant carers) were no longer able to afford their elephants keep, let alone support their families. Thus the elephant tourism industry was born.

Mahouts soon discovered peoples love and fascination for these gentle giants when tourists from all over the world started traveling to Thailand and other parts of Asia prepared to pay (big money by local standards) for an elephant ride or to watch an elephant balance on a beach ball. As a result, these giants need to be tamed to adhere their masters every command, and to ensure the tourists safety.

Training techniques are often brutal, read up on the training crush a method of breaking the elephants wild spirit so they will perform accordingly. The baby elephants are ripped from their mothers and placed in a small cage and brutally beaten until they understand the command: still! or quiet! This happens in 90% of all elephant training. So think twice before getting an elephant ride! Also, Miky and I were more than keen to meet an elephant without heavy chains around her feet. So the Elephant Nature Park was the ideal for us.

Elephant nature park is a place to see elephant behaving completely naturally. There are no chains, no fences and no brutal training rituals. You observe the animals interacting in their new herds as well as river bathing. It is easy to feel the elephants happiness after seeing some chained “pet” elephants elsewhere in Thailand (along the roadside)

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Upon arrival, after meeting our wonderful guide Andy we sat in a shaded area with benches and enjoyed the serene views. The sanctuary is set in a valley nestled in the mountainous northern landscapes. Before long we were invited to help feed the elephants large baskets of fruit: pumpkin and watermelon seemed to be a favorite!

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The elephant that Miky and I were feeding was blind due being hit in the eye with a slingshot repeatedly by her previous master for not following his orders. Lec the wondrous, big hearted founder, finds most of the elephants in horrific conditions and raises the money from the reserve and donations to buy them.

After feeding time, we were able to walk with our guide around the park. Where we met several other beautiful elephants. I was amazed by their size. I have seen elephants before, but only in English zoos, from behind a safety line, it is hard to describe the sheer size and strength these mammals possess.

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After a quick vege buffet lunch we walked down to the river on the reserve property. Elephants are free to wander to the river whenever they feel like bathing (in the wild they bathe twice a day) we met with another giant and began playing with her and the water by throwing buckets of river water over her! She seemed to enjoy it immensely and eventually walked into the centre and rolled around in the water. At the river we were able to observe several ellys enjoying the cool wash down!

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We even had the chance to meet (but not touch- as to not upset his mother) a one year old beautiful baby elephant!

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And then we spent time walking (cautiously- these guys are free and wild now…. and could charge us whenever they feel like it!) amongst the herds.

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Many of the elephants had severe injuries, including one poor female whom had trodden on a land mine in Burma and blown off her foot. Spending three years in hospital before being fully integrated into the wild with the herd. One elephant was blind due to the spot light on the set of the elephant show that she worked on for ten years.

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Without a doubt this place is one I would recommend to ANYONE visiting Asia or Thailand if you want to see happy, free elephants behaving naturally and not elephants abused by the hand of man.

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