Amazing Thailand #11: The Elephant Nature Park

WARNING: The first 2 minutes of this video includes some disturbing images of the domestication process elephants go through to prepare the animal to be used in the tourism industry. However, by watching this introduction, you will have a better idea on the importance of the work that has been done at the Elephant Nature Park, in Chiang Mai.

The Elephant Nature Park is a sanctuary and rescue centre for elephants in the Northern Thailand, approximately 60 km from Chiang Mai City. Founded in the 1990s, the project’s aim is to provide sanctuary for distressed elephants from all over Thailand. Set in a natural valley, bordered by a river, and surrounded by forested mountains the sanctuary and surrounding area offers a glimpse of rural life. The Elephant Nature Park has been featured in documentaries from different TV channels, such as Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and National Geographic.

Its founder, Sangduen “Lek” Chailert, was born at a remote mountain community in Northern Thailand in the 1960s. Despite extreme financial difficulties she succeeded in founding Elephant Nature Park along with her husband Adam in 1996.

The elephants at the sanctuary are rescued from street begging, logging or tourism. Their scars, mental and physical, need to be healed. Some outlived their usefulness to loggers while others became useless to trekking camp owners. Lek’s work takes her deep into the jungles of Northern Thailand where, with the help of medical staff, she treats tribal villagers and their families with medical care and, often, donated clothing. Her Jumbo Express programme provides much needed care to elephants in the jungles in Chiang Mai province and beyond.

In an area which abounds with elephant parks and camps, this is the only one which rescues mistreated elephants, allows them heal and to live naturally in their self-chosen family groups. The emphasis is on rescue and conservation rather than ‘shows’ or training. Dozens of rescue dogs and cats also live at the centre, apparently at ease with their giant neighbours.

At the park, prepare to be moved to tears by the obvious happiness of the elephants, saved from the horrendous conditions they had previously endured working or performing. Enjoy feeding them, and then wade into the river to bathe them. Watch them inter-connect and display their obvious affection for each other. Suitable for all ages including young children or retirees.

The park is open to visitors all year round. Day trips and overnight stays can be arranged as can longer-term volunteer placements.

On the final part of this series, Amazing Thailand #12, I show the city of Chiang Mai:

Português: O Elephant Nature Park é um centro de refúgio e de resgate de elefantes no Norte Tailândia, Província de Chiang Mai, a cerca de 60 km da cidade de Chiang Mai. Fundada em década de 1990, o objetivo do projeto é fornecer santuário para elefantes problemáticos de toda a Tailândia.

Diogo Kyrillos
Documentario Tailandia Globo Reporter

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