Monday, February 8, 2010

Elephant Sanctuary, Pt. 2

After about one hour north from Chiang Mai, through the beautiful Northern Thai country side, we arrived at the Elephant Nature Park. We dropped off our stuff by a large open air wooden building, called 'the kitchen', which was filled with thousands of bananas and crates of mangoes and tamarind. Some of the fruit was being divided into baskets, each with a name painted on it, such as Mae Do, Jokia and Hope. This was lunch for the elephants. An asian elephant can weigh up to 5 ½ tons and can eat up to 300 pounds of food a day!! By time dinner rolled around, the rest of the food there would be eaten. 

Feeding the elephants was an interesting and fun task. They would grab up to 6 bananas at a time with their trunks and toss them into their mouths like they were peanuts. As the food landed in their mouth their trunks were swinging around for more. All I saw was a flurry of nimble trunks coming at me. I was caught off guard when one them gave me a kiss. A rough, wet, snotty, kiss right on the cheek.

After lunch, the elephants marched down to the river so we can give them their afternoon bath. This was one of my favorite moments of the day!
Our job was to join Medo and Mae Mai in the river, along with their Mahouts, traditional elephant trainers or "elephant drivers". Our guide gave us scrub brushes and buckets. Standing in hip high water (filled with elephant poop), we scrubbed their backs and threw buckets of water on them.

Medo was rescued by Lek, the sanctuary's founder, from an abusive logger near the Burmese border (a lot of loggers in South East Asia use elephants to haul trees). While Medo was working, a heavy log fell and broke her ankle. Her owner never reset it or tried to help her recover. Unable to use her for logging, they tried to have her bred but instead of mating with her, the male elephant, a big bull, pinned her to the ground and dislocated her backbone. Because Medo's injuries were never treated, with every step she takes on her back leg, her entire body falls feet away from the ground while her unaligned hip almost seems to pull away from her body. She then lifts her weight back up only to have it fall again with her next step. It was obviously painful for her and was extremely painful to watch. Her bff, Mae Mai, looks after her every step of the way...waiting for her to bathe or eat. Mae Mai's got her back!

Elephants are extremely social animals and have tight knit families. When they are separated from their families, they can often be adopted into surrogate families or form friendships, which is what happened to most of the rescued elephants at the park. It's amazing how they are all very protective of each other.


  1. This is just beautiful to see. Thanks for posting about this.

  2. I LOVED this place. My husband and I spent a morning there when we were in Thailand two years ago...I still have dreams about it. I loved it. so tranquil and lovely.


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