Today we went to the Elephant Nature Park – an elephant sanctuary. It was the day Alicen was most looking forward to. The reserve has 37 elephants which have been either rescued from bad situations where they were domestic (labor or tourist) elephants or else babies that had lost their mothers and could not survive alone the wild.
These elephants are all Asian elephants. They’re smaller than their African relatives and have much smaller ears. Elephants have a long history in Thai culture and were often used for labor and in the logging industry. Logging was banned in Thailand in the ’90s and many elephants were out of work and either abandoned or sold to neighboring burma for use in logging there. We were told that elephants are highly revered here, but yet they are offered no protection against abuse and neglect. Those used in tourism undergo very violent ‘breaking’ processes to crush the animals spirit and independence, and force them to become submissive to man. We saw a video of this process and it was awful, heart wrenching. At this park the founder wants the elephants to be free and live their lives as elephants. For any young or wild elephants they never use the crush pores to break their spirit, they only use positive reinforcement.
At the park we got to feed three different elephants. They eat about 10% of their body weight in food each day. They eat bananas, watermelon and squash. Each elephant has a big basket of food prepared for them based on the foods they like. From feeding them we could clearly see their food preferences come to light. One elephant liked corn but wouldn’t eat the parts of the corn husk that were bad and had no kernels. She’d hold the good portion of the husk in her mouth and use her trunk to break off the bad part and throw it to the ground. another one was apparently sick of watermelon, even though she normally liked it. Her basket included all three types of food but every time we.d give her a piece of watermelon she,d make it lear that she didn’t want that by throwing it to the ground. We have a great video of this!
We also got to bathe the elephants at a river. They depend on the water to cool them down, and we got to throw buckets of water on them ad scrub them off with brushes. They seemed to early enjoy their time in the water. Some laid down and fully submerged themselves while others rolled back and forth on their backs and sides in the water. We even got sprayed by a sneaky elephant who sprays water out of his trunk on command.
At the end of the day we adopted an elephant for a year. Our money will feed and bathe her for a year, and we’ll receive updates and pictures three times a year. We adopted a girl elephant who was blinded by slingshots by her owners because she refused to work after she gave birth to a baby who died shortly after birth.