Today was amazing, emotional and touching. I loved it all. We went to Elephant Nature Park which is all about conservation, unlike many of the other elephant attractions in Thailand which exploite the elephants and use them to take 4 tourist trecking through the jungle. It was first opened as a santuary were they could just be elephants, no working. Now it has been opened to ecotourists who want to learn and recieve a hands on experience.
We started our day stopping at a local market to load all the elephants food... bags upon bags of bannanas, pineapples, melons etc.
After a 2 hour drive into the hills and jungle we unloaded and got ready to feed the elephants. They were sticking their trunks every which way looking for scraps and one started to steal from my elephants basket. We then ate our lunch and then headed to river to bath them. Then we hung around the babies on the beach. Some even gave kisses which was more like a suck.
We then had a talk from one of the volunteers and then watched a movie about the elephant epidemic in Asia. Very sad. It was just breaking my heart. Many of the elephants at the park were rescued from mistreatment in one form or another. One had a nub foot because it stepped on a landmind. One was blind becuase its owners shoot it in the eyes when it wouldn't behave. One had his tusks cut off with a chainsaw... the stories go on and on.
Even sader was yesterday I saw an elephant crossing the street at the night market in Cheng Mai. I was shocked to see one in the busy streets and felt bad for it as it is loud and chaotic and not suit for an elephant. I learned today that many elephants are used for street begging where the owner takes them out at night and sells food to tourists to feed the elephant and pose for pictures. However, the elephants who do this do not recieve enough food and water often and live in the cities under freeways in squatter camps during the day. It was heartbreaking.
They do the same thing in Bangkok.
I am so glad that I chose to visit a place that is doing something good for these amazing creatures and is trying to have a positive influence on the elephant community in Asia.