We spent my birthday in the jungle & pouring rain with 5 tonne majestic beasts.

We were at Baanchang Elephant Park, a non-profit organization that has dedicated to providing elephants with the highest quality-of-life possible.

Only ~1,000 of elephants in Thailand are still in the wild. The rest are either commercialized (which apparently the government is phasing out) or “house elephants” such as this sanctuary – where they have provided a home and purpose for domesticated/commercialized elephants who can no longer survive in the wild.

Their goal? To teach visitors about the importance of elephant preservation (~hundreds of thousand of deaths in the last 150 years due to poaching, habitat loss, commercialization, etc) and proper eating, sleeping, bathing and exercise methods.

We received Mahout (Elephant handler) training:

    • we fed (banana & sugar cane),
    • bathed (and scrubbed!)
    • bareback rode (including using the Thai commands)
    • as well as learned about their lifestyle, their behaviour and their stories (some come from logging operations where they feed the elephants speed in order to work longer hours, some come from circuses, some from roaming city streets for money).

Elephants are more similar to humans than I ever thought possible. They
feel,
remember,
experience anxiety,
die of broken hearts,
rejoice,
play,
tease
and love.

Here at this sanctuary, there is one trainer to one elephant, with 45 elephants. Many times, the elephant chooses the trainer and they spend 2-4 years together. The trainer and elephant form a brotherhood, a bond I can’t describe: rubbing them, talking to them quietly with a big smile & saying “dee-dee” (thank you) many times.

Our eyes have been opened to the past hardships and now current triumphs of these beautiful creatures.

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