Keep these things in mind before you visit elephant sanctuaries
Elephants are classified into two different species: the African and the Asian. Sadly, as compared to their African counterparts, Asian elephants are considered an endangered species. The number of elephants in Thailand is approximately 4,000. This is mainly due to their expulsion from their former habitats. Out of this number, about half of the population take refuge in natural park reserves while the rest live in captivity, and others suffer in extreme conditions. In Thailand alone, there are at least three elephant nature parks. These places serve as sanctuaries for elephants to live undisturbed lives.
Luckily for tourists, many of these nature parks allow visitors to have a few hours to spend with these amazing creatures. There’s Elephant Nature Park up in the Northern Thailand provinces, specifically in Chiang Mai. Established in the 1990s, Elephant Nature Park dedicates itself to be the safe place for all distressed elephants in Thailand. Not far from this place is the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. Described as an “ethical and sustainable eco-tourism project,” the park welcomes tourists, especially those who want to learn more about elephants and how to take care of them. They also have opened new sanctuaries in Phuket, Pattaya, and Samui.
To fully enjoy the experience, here are some essential things you should know first before going to any ethical elephant sanctuaries:
You should never take these giants for consistent gentle creatures like you see in movies. As much as they are cute and sociable, these animals are capable of hauling you in the air or trampling you on the ground if you don’t behave properly around them. So, pay 101 percent attention to what the guide tells you and always follow their instructions.
Riding elephants in Thailand nature parks is discouraged. To many of us who are up to experiencing new things, a visit to Thailand is not complete without riding these mighty creatures. However, within the perimeters of the natural parks, tourists are not allowed to ride on the elephant’s backs. Don’t worry, once you’re there, you’ll soon find out that there are a lot more entertaining and safer activities that do not involve riding on these gentle rescued elephants. Outside these parks, they are still targets for poaching and sport. Through the help of natural parks, these elephants find shelter from the dangers of a miserable life.
Spending time with elephants in Thailand involve feeding, walking, and bathing them. Tourists are also allowed to touch and take pictures. A few hours with them makes a lot of difference and ultimately changes the person’s perspective. Also, some natural parks let the visitors wear the traditional Karen clothes during the tour. It can also get wet and muddy once elephants are taken in to bathe. So, ready the swimsuits, hats, sun blocks, and extra clothes for a messy yet fun activity under the sun.
Natural parks serve as more than a place. It’s a heritage of Thailand, a meaningful experience, and an essential source of appreciation and inspiration of our world for generations to come.
Elephant Nature Park. n.d. “Facts about Elephants.” Accessed on January 14, 2019. https://www.elephantnaturepark.org/.
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. n.d. “Samui Elephant Jungle Sanctuary.” Accessed on https://elephantjunglesanctuary.com/.