08 Mar Elephant Nature Park: Kuet Chang, Thailand
The Elephant Nature Park is a sanctuary for rescued elephants that brings animal loving travelers up close to Thailand’s gentle giants in a special way.
Rehabilitation and Visitor Interaction
Visit Thailand and you’ll realize early on that every corner seems to have a billboard advertising elephant rides and shows. That’s because many tourists believe riding on an elephant or seeing an elephant show is a great experience to have while in Thailand. What many animal loving tourists don’t know is that Asian elephants often face terrible abuse so they can be trained to perform. The animals may be starved, drugged or physically harmed. Since the 90s, a force in changing this kind of systematic abuse has come in the form of an elephant rehabilitation center called the Elephant Nature Park. The Elephant Nature Park’s founder Sangduen Chailert and his team have been actively leading the movement against elephant abuse. In the process, the Elephant Nature Park has won dozens of awards for rescuing and rehabilitating working elephants. Today, there is a lively and thriving elephant herd that lives there.
The park is also a haven for a menagerie of other animals including dogs, cats and buffaloes. Besides caring for on-site animals, organizers also visit other elephant camps to teach business owners that they can make a living without abusing animals.Today Elephant Nature Park is Thailand’s biggest and most popular elephant rescue organization and conservation center. It is where anyone who wants to interact with an elephant in an ethical way can go and visit. The experience is touching and thrilling all at once.
Why Go to a Rehabilitation Center
Booking a visit at the Elephant Nature Park is about putting on a volunteer cap for a day. At the same time, the experience offers incredible one-on-one time with the gentle giants. On the way to the camp, volunteers watch a DVD that shows that kind of suffering the abused elephants had gone through before they were rescued. Some elephants were the central act in tourist shows where they were forced to perform strung onto sharp hooks and chains. Many of the animals worked in logging camps or gave rides to tourists, which was torture for them because – you may be surprised to learn – elephants don’t have very strong backs. Experts say that adult elephants can carry only up to 330 pounds (150 kgs) on their backs for just a few hours per day. However, many of Thailand’s abused elephants work full day shifts, carrying riders that sit in heavy metal seats. At the same time, the elephants simply don’t get enough water, healthy food and shade.
Their protected space at the Elephant Nature Park is different world. The elephants are able to form their own family groups and can act naturally as part of a wild herd. That’s why a visit to this sanctuary offers incredible interaction. Time is spent wandering with the animals, going on walks with them, leading them to baths and helping the staff feed them. It’s also a place to witness incredible moments that are natural to elephant life. Baby elephants may break out into trunk tug-of-wars. Some elephant families can be found wallowing happily in shared mud baths. Visitors can even observe the gentle care that the older elephants take when caring for blind or hurt members of a herd.
The Home of Elephant Nature Park: Chiang Mai, Thailand
The Elephant Nature Park is located in the Mae Taeng valley, 37 miles (60 km) from the northern city of Chiang Mai. The city is set on an elevated plain, surrounded by mountains and lush countryside. It’s a green and quiet urban center known for its arts and history. Visitors can explore the many historic monasteries built with an impressive range of shapes and styles. Short travel distances lead to the Chiang Mai countryside where rainforest reserves, hot springs, country villages and a growing number of elephant sanctuaries can be found.
Although the Elephant Nature Park and other parks like it continue with their conservation and rehabilitation efforts, the only way elephant abuse can truly end is if tourists are educated about elephant abuse. If tourists continue to hand over money to ride elephants or watch them do unnatural things, the abuse cycle will continue. If travelers want to do the right thing, it’s an option to go and experience elephant parks. Like the Elephant Nature Park, these small but growing number of centers are the way to keep travelers and elephants and their mahouts (elephant trainers) happy.
Elephant Nature Park Visiting Tips:
- The Elephant Nature Park is perfect for anyone who loves animals.
- The activities are slow paced so it is an experience for all age groups.
- Wear lightweight clothing and comfortable sturdy shoes. If you are staying overnight, wear long sleeves and pants. Also, take along swimwear and a towel. If you want to bathe with the elephants, bring a change of clothes.
- There are day trips and longer volunteering packages. Single day visits: 2,500 THB (75 USD). Overnight visits: 5,800 THB (165 USD)
- The demand to volunteer is extremely high, so that means you may need to book up to a year in advance.
- For more information, visit: https://www.elephantnaturepark.org/
- To book your dream holiday to Chiang Mai, visit Apple Specials.
Did you know a place like the Elephant Nature Park exists? Have you ever visited an animal rehabilitation center?