Gentle Giants

Gentle Giants

I have been in Thailand almost 3 weeks now and it feels like I have only been here several days.  The first week I was here was Orientation Week so it was filled with fun excursions and cultural and language lessons.  We did everything from visiting temples to Muay Thai training to visiting Maesa Elephant Camp.  It was an exciting and exhausting week.  My favorite activity at the time was visiting the elephants at the camp.  Before I came to Thailand I knew I did not want to ride an Elephant due to the abuse they endure for this popular tourist attraction. For those that wish to watch here is a video that shows the horrendous torture elephants go through for the tourism industry. Matthew from Expert Vagabond also wrote a nice article about on why we shouldn’t ride elephants in Thailand.  I had glanced at Maesa’s website before we arrived to see how well they treat their elephants.  Based off their website it seemed that they treated them fairly well.  When we arrived I was excited to see and interact with the baby elephants, but first we learned how to make Elephant Dung (poop) paper. The process is fairly simple. They collect the elephant dung and wash and boil it for 5 hours to take out any harmful bacteria or lingering, unwelcome smells. After the boiling process is over they spin the dung to help take out the clumps.  They then put it in a bucket with water and they will mix it with the water to remove any clumps left over from the spinning.  Then it is transferred into a frame and the dung is spread throughout the frame.  The water is then drained from the frame and the frame is left out in the sun to dry.  If they want to make colored paper they would mix in the coloring during the spinning process.

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Once our elephant dung paper making was over we were finally able to interact with the elephants! We were able to feed and take pictures with the baby elephants and their mothers.  The baby was still very young so when feeding her we had to take the peel of the banana and squish it up so she could eat it.  It ranks as one of the cutest things I have ever seen.




After about 20 minutes the mother started getting protective so we left and went to watch elephants getting bathed. This is where the day takes a turn for the worse.  I noticed some of the elephants had chains around their neck that connected to their foot.  The trainers also had long, sharp sticks they had with them. That combined with the fact that they also had Elephants with saddles on their back for riding left me with an uneasy feeling.  I tried to shake it off because I didn’t see them being physically injured in my presence.  After we left I found out that one of the members of our group saw an elephant being beaten with a bull-hook and that it had open wounds on its head.  If I had known this before hand I would not have gone to this elephant camp.  It baffles my mind that workers can show up everyday and treat these gentle animals like this.  I refuse to support any business that intentionally harms animals just to make a profit.  After this experience, I believe I found an elephant sanctuary that actually treats their animals humanely.  It is called the Elephant Nature Park and it is located about an hour outside of Chiang Mai.  I would love to spend a day volunteering at the park to help the elephants.  Hopefully once the course is done I will have some time to explore and support the Elephant Nature Park.  Stay tuned for more updates and pictures from Songkran!!

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