Ahh, elephants! They are probably one of the best things I have ever come across. The beauty in their eyes, the thick, soft, leather feel of their long, floppy trunk. It was amazing.
We were quite hesitant when it came to seeing elephants in Thailand. Just because we knew that a lot of places treat the elephants badly. We both love animals, and the thought of seeing one of the most beautiful animals treated badly would have broken our hearts.
We made some friends in Chaing Mai who felt the same and they went to/recommended Happy Elephant Home to us. Happy Elephant Home is a sanctuary a few hours up the mountains in Chiang Mai. The elephants that they have there have been rescued either from circuses or other tourist attractions.
I was quite interested to know what goes on, so I asked our guide a few questions; I wanted to know where they came from and what had happened to them before. One of the elephants at our sanctuary was rescued from the circus whilst she was pregnant! She was being ridden and made to perform when she was carrying a baby! Another elephant that was there had scars in a square on her back where she had that big seat across her back for years. They are often chained up at these kind of places and are trained very aggressively, which is just horrible.
Elephants are humungous. The 2-year-old baby we spent time with was already 750kg! So being big animals it's not a problem for them to carry weight. But having heavy, tight seats on their back in the 30-degree heat is very uncomfortable for them. They are on soo tight it creates sores, scars and damages their skin. It also creates bald patches. Elephants have corse hair all over their bodies so that mud can stick to them to keep them cool. If they have no hairs on their back, the mud won't stick, making it really hard for the elephants to cool down. One of the elephants at this sanctuary also had this problem.
Before we went to see them we had to cut up some sugar cane. We made friends with an American couple there and the chopping of the cane was hilarious (its harder than it looks). We dressed in a traditional tribal outfit so that they recognised us as friends (with food obviously) and they literally came running over to us like little puppies (little elephants, same same?)
They know exactly whats going on when. They eat all day every day, more than you could imagine. We fed them and walked straight down to the river to bath them and even on the walk down they were eating branches off the trees!
Elephants have big personalities. They are playful and happy. The ones we saw, the baby especially, was absolutely loving life. The sanctuary that they are in is big enough for them and they only allow small groups of people to see them. Our group only had like 6 of us in with 4 elephants which was lovely.
We have put together a little video of our day at Happy Elephant Home which you can see below.
Thanks for reading!
Pair of Plodders