001. While in Chiang Mai we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit The Elephant Nature Park for a day and I can safely say it was one of the most incredible things I have ever done. If you haven't heard of The Elephant Nature Park before it is essentially an elephant sanctuary for the beautiful creatures that have been unfortunate enough to cross the path of cruel humans. The park is run by a wonderful lady called Lek, who has dedicated her life to rescuing and rehabilitating these gentle giants. When I visited, the huge sanctuary was currently home to 65 elephants, 400 rescued dogs, a herd of buffalo, numerous cats and one pig. They certainly go above in beyond in terms of rescuing elephants and all animals from being used in an abusive manner or as exploited tourist attractions. I am very passionate about this issue and I feel it is one not a lot of people are educated about (the amount of times I have seen Facebook friends on the back of elephants and have been tempted to send them an essay about it...). I hope this post can help spread some light on this issue for you if it's the first you have heard!
002. The main idea behind The Elephant Nature Park is to provide a home for elephants that free and safe from any harm. I feel so incredibly lucky to have experienced these wonderful animals free and happy in nature, after learning all about their horrific and inhuman stories of pain that have been inflicted upon them. The whole day had a bizarre feeling to me; it felt magical to see these giants roaming around, but hearing their awful stories made my heart heavy with sadness. How can human beings be so cruel to a creature so kind? Feet blown up from land mines while working in the logging industry, blind from the tourist camera flashes or spotlights at the circus, broken limbs/distorted legs from being overworked in harsh conditions, blind from having their eyes stabbed out by owners, permanently injured backs from people riding them- THESE CASES ARE NOT UNUSUAL. Elephants are not ours to exploit, they are mammals too- they are smart, they have feelings, they have memories. They do not want to be locked up each night and dragged around all day in pain while someone with a selfie stick is sitting on their back!
003. If you love elephants or call yourself an animal lover please don't ever ride them, or participate in elephant tourist traps while in Thailand. Throughout travelling Asia we saw first hand elephants at the sanctuary, but also elephants who were being exploited or ridden by tourists- you can see the pain in their faces, compared to the elephants who are now living a life of freedom. If you want further support or need a little more convincing on why riding elephants should NOT be on your bucket list take a look at this, this and this. And please, if you ever have the chance to travel abroad ALWAYS seek out the ethical and magical places like this park, because they truly are a diamond in rough and deserve all the support they can get.