Don’t Ride the Elephant 

Just imagine how incredible it would be to touch massive 9 foot tall, 4 ton beautiful creatures. Some people come to Thailand to ride the elephants, which seems cool and fun. However there’s a dark side to elephant touristic activities that many people just don’t seem to know of. 

Wild elephants won’t let humans ride on top of them. So in order to tame a wild elephant, it is tortured as a baby to completely break its spirit. The process is called Phajaan, or “the crush”. 

It involves ripping baby elephants away from their mothers and tying them up so that they’re unable to move. Some baby elephants are born into the circus by forced breeding. 

The baby elephants are beaten with clubs, sharp hooks and have no food and little sleep for many days.

A small group is trying to stop them. Elephant Nature Park (ENP) is a natural sanctuary about a one-hour away from Chiang Mai. Their mission is to protect & care for mistreated elephants rescued from tourism activities like riding and street begging, they also rescue elephants from logging and circus industries. They usually buy the elephants and take care of them. 

There are 63 elephants right now that call Elephant Nature Park their friendly home. They all have stories.

Not all elephants came to ENP because they are mistreated.  In 2011, ENP was called to Pornsawan’s rescue. An elephant had been terribly injured by a land mine explosive. The poor elephant was only 18 and elephants can live to 80. She was walking in the deep jungle while doing her work. (She was trained with treats not torture.) The land mine blew her foot apart. 

This poor elephant was in the hospital for more then two years but it paid off. Pornsawn today has mostly healed from her injury. She is now a super nanny for another elephant’s baby. She did this all her own. 

If you want to come and volunteer at this lovely place, you can for only $400 US for 7 days.

By Quinn

© VanKosh Family 2015