Thailand, My-My Those Gorgeous Elphis .... Interlude Number 2

A visit to Chiang Mai for me would be marked finito only after having visited the majestic elephants of this region. For an elephant blessing. And by blessings, I mean literally, to get a knock on my head from one of them. Okay, let me clarify. A friendly knock.  An affectionate pat.

There are two popular places for you to explore if you want to get close to these mammals, learn about and take selfies with them.  These are at the elephant rehabilitation centres/sanctuaries or at the elephant camps.  Most of the country’s elephant camps are located in the northern and western regions.  Having lived side by side with the humans over the centuries, the elephant has become and, still is a part of the Thai culture and icon. 

The elephant, my friend, is a  dear and intelligent animal. An elephant can express empathy, just like many human beings do, for another elephant and, sometimes even for another dying or suffering animal. These exotic mammals are not only affectionate but also very intelligent. Did you know elephants have extraordinary memory? Elephants can remember events up to a lifetime.  Seriously! And speaking of which, an elephi has a lifespan of 70 years when in the wild. So there now. All I can say is, try not to tease one too much. You may end up with a painful bump on your head instead.

Elephants all over the world are herbivorous. They usually feed on fruits like bananas and bamboo shoots.  Since they love to eat, just keep feeding it with banana, and I am pretty sure your image and touch will be registered in its memory, and you'll get an awful lifelong worth of pats. Ahh, isn't that sweet?

The elephants of  South Asia and Southeast Asia are known as the Asian ones.  They are smaller than their cousins in Africa (African -  bush &  forest - elephants). 

Home for the Southeast Asian elephants is in the tropical and sub-tropical forests.

Sadly today, as more and more of their homes are claimed by humans for further development and, as poaching and, the greed for Ivory intensifies, both the Asian and African elephant numbers are declining rapidly.  Asian elephants are classified as endangered whereas the African elephants are nearing endangerment. If this trend continues, our next generation will only be able to visualise these creatures through the wordy encyclopaedia’s.

There are only around 4000 elephants left in Thailand. And it is believed that half of them them are domesticated. This means they are captured from the wild, kept in confined areas (such as camps, circuses,) usually for entertainment reasons for tourists like you and me. Unfortunately, the process of domesticating these cuties is typically harsh. One of the methods used is called elephant crushing where the baby elephant is separated from its mother, then tied up, beaten ruthlessly and tortured to break its spirit. Once its spirits are cut, they are trained for domestic use. Disturbing isn’t it? We wouldn’t want this to happen to our children so why support this knowingly?  Elephant crushing is done behind the scenes of course, so visitors in general do not get to see this.  In his blog, Johnny FD shows us more about this in a video (Black Tusk: The ugly truth about elephant riding).  I have posted these links here to support this awareness.

To protect these endangered species nature parks have been set up. Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai is one of the elephant rescue and rehabilitation centres that was established in the 90’s. It is located 60KMs from the city centre. Some of the rescued elephants here had been previously abused or injured by humans or land mines. The park is open to visitors for day-trips. It also offers  volunteering opportunities. At the park, visitors can feed, play and can go on walk trails with the elephants. Do be prepared to get wet. Elephants are immensely over-joyed when in water. So, they tend to get rather playful. The park also acts as a centre to educate us on these creatures. Riding on elephants is a big no-no here. Elephants are built to pull weights. Their backs are not designed to carry heavy weights. Do think twice before you decide to sit on one.

I had visited Chiang Mai twice and on both occasions had visited different (but approved) elephant camps. In all fairness, I did not see any disturbing treatment towards these beautiful creatures. But today, I would think again before visiting a camp, knowing what torture the elephants had to endure for a chance to entertain me. Not all camps are bad and inhumane. In order not to support the malicious, please make sure the camp you visit is a government approved one. The pictures in this blogpost were taken during those visits. And, did I mention they were captured before the digital camera era? They were. Time flies.

My family and I have an awful lot of respect for these delightful creatures. Elephants have been part of my life since the beginning of time.  My first introduction was to Lord Ganesha, the Hindu Elephant God. And perhaps that’s why the elephant and I are inseparable.  Miniature elephants are still one of my top souvenir choices to get when visiting South Asia and other countries in Southeast Asia and, to also give away to dear ones. 

Elephant torture is not one I would support knowingly. Just because it’s an animal and it has no voice, it doesn’t give us humans the right to torture them for pleasure and greed. It breaks my heart to know what they have gone through to entertain me.

Would you do that to your child? Think about it over that cuppa. 💗💙💚💛💜💗

1 comment:

  1. "Miniature elephants are still one of my top souvenir choices to get... and, to also give away to dear ones. " I know... :-)