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Published: January 1st 2009
"All You Need is Love"
As the song says and Lek has proven that elephants can be trained with love and kindness and not the harsh traditional methods.
Elephant Nature Park
At the Elephant Nature Park near Chiang Mai in northern Thailand the elephant can roam free. In Thailand the traditional training methods are very harsh for the elephant and the demise of the logging industry has seen elephant numbers fall from 100,000 in the last century to now around 3000. Elephant Nature Park looks after injured, mistreated and orphaned elephants in single and family groups.
The elephants at the park are treated with kindness and love by founder Sangduen "Lek" Chailert who was named a hero of Thailand by Time Magazine. Other staff include Lek’s friend Pom who is also boss of the mahouts (elephant trainer/minders), guides/co-ordinators Burm and Jack and movie maker for the volunteers Maih. I stayed at the ENP as a volunteer for a week and was very fortunate to be amongst some wonderful single people and great families from all over the world with many volunteers from Australia.
There is no elephant riding by the visitors, painting or silly games by the elephants at the Elephant Nature Park. There is so much ignorance about the plight of the elephant in Asia and it is such a shame to seem them begging
Lek and Leon
Sangduen "Lek" Chailert was named a hero of Thailand by Time magazine and I always feel that I am with someone very special when I met Lek on my two visits to the park.
for food with their mahouts in the streets of Chiang Mai and Bangkok.
As a volunteer you can do as much or as little as you want and there is no pressure from anyone. It is a great way to spend a week or more and you can relax in the beautiful scenery of the Mae Teung Valley or do some of the many jobs that help keep the park running and provide feed and care for the elephants.
A very special part of the week is a visit up a nearby mountain to a place called Elephant Heaven/Haven for an overnight stay with Pom and some of the elephants and mahouts. The number of volunteers for the Elephant Heaven/Haven visit is limited to 14 and we sat around the camp fire while Pom told many stories about the elephants in Thailand and those living at the park.
If you have a chance to volunteer at ENP it is highly recommended and if you do visit make an effort to talk with the mahouts and the other staff and you will have an even more enjoyable time and learn more about Thailand's elephants, culture and yourself.
This story is mainly told in the pictures and there is also a previous entry from a year ago when I had a two day visit to the park.
"Sawatdee Bpii Mai" - Happy New Year
Click on the pics if you want a larger view and select next to see all of the 57 pictures.
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