Friday, November 21, 2008
Birthday Blog Part 2- The Elephant Nature Park
Two or three days after the spectacular birthday celebration at our hotel, we enjoyed our last big birthday present: The Elephant Nature Park. We had decided (even before we went to Thailand) that for our birthday we would go to an elephant camp. When we got to Chiang Mai, we started looking at which elephant camp to go to. At first, we were going to go to an elephant camp that was not the Elephant Nature Park. But then we discovered that they "cheated" us - that things we had been informed of by our travel agent were not true, so we decided to go to the Elephant Nature Park.
The Elephant Nature Park is an elephant camp, but you don't ride the elephants. Riding on a elephant can damage their spine or at least hurt them, and the Elephant Nature Park is totally against that. It is a place that rescues elephants that have been mistreated either by forced performing or working for a village. Elephants are considered livestock in Thailand and are often treated terribly when working. The elephants at the Elephant Nature Park are encouraged to live a normal life and forget their working traumas. It's a great place to interact with and learn about elephants and to know that you went somewhere where the elephants are treated well!!!
It was a long ride out there but the time was passed by watching a movie on the dwindling elephant population of Thailand. We stopped once to load 2 truck fulls of Bananas for the elephants. Boy are those bananas heavy!!! 1 small innocent bag of bananas was about 15 pounds!!! At least we didn't have to unload the bananas once we got there!!! The first activity was feeding time. You pick up the bananas/corn and give it to the trunk of the elephant. Then the elephant eats it. Many of the elephants will eat both foods given to them except one; the leader of the babies army. When she is given corn, she will reluctantly eat it. When she sees bananas, she will drop the corn on the feeding platform. Then she will never set her trunk on corn again. It's amazing how picky they can be!!!
The next activity was bathing. The elephants love to be bathed but when you are done, they will cover themselves with dust again. They might as well be Chinchillas and take only dust baths. When it is bathing time, the elephants will run into the water to be bathed. Then you can splash water on them with your bucket or give them Thai massage!!! Or a regular massage with oil (water). The elephants will tend to lie down and have a hard time getting up again.
After this we watched a documentary on where some of the rescued elephants came from and what happens to them when they are trained to be docile. Since it was a little "scary", Siena and I retreated from the room on various occasions. Then, once again, feeding time. And then bathing time.