THE ELEPHANT JUNGLE SANCTUARY & WHY YOU SHOULDN’T SUPPORT RIDING ELEPHANTS

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If you’re thinking of honeymooning in Thailand then I would highly recommend a trip to Chiang Mai to be with the elephants at The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. This sanctuary  is an ethical and sustainable eco-tourism project in Thailand, with their concern about the welfare of elephants it became their mission to provide the elephants with good health, freedom and happiness that they truly deserve! I visited this place last month and I can’t even tell you what an incredible experience it was!

ABOUT THE SANCTUARY

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I know that when many people think of Thailand they envision riding elephants, PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS. I am going to talk more about how goddam awful this is later on the post and why us tourists shouldn’t be supporting it but for now let’s talk about our experience with The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. They maintain a strict no riding policy and they hope that their approach will set an example which will in time lead to a transformation in elephant tourism as well as human and ethical treatment to elephants worldwide.

Their hope is to lead by example and contribute to a positive change in the perception of elephants, to witness a future where elephants are not rigged, poached, over worked or abused and are instead treated with care, love and respect. The sanctuaries are home to over sixty formerly mistreated elephants who are now free to enjoy their lives and we got to spend an entire day with them!

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Our day started by changing into traditional Karen clothes then learning all about the elephants. For example they only sleep for 3 hours a day! SAY WHAT! Which means they have staff with them 24 hours a day taking care of them. We also learnt that Elephants eat a huge amount of food, needing to consume an average of 150kg of food each day just to survive! Larger elephants will eat much more, with some known to eat up to 300kg/day. They also need to drink a great deal of water, with some estimating that each elephant must drink 150L per day. (I struggle to drink 1 litre of water a day!)

Once we had learnt about the elephants it was time to meet and feed them! We were each giving two bunches of bananas to feed them, one banana at a time. We interacted with them, played with them and felt their skin, it was honestly the most incredible experience to see an elephant this close up! Turns out this part of the day was just their appetiser because after that we carried these huge leaves down to them and they tucked straight in!

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After this, we enjoyed a traditional Thai lunch with fresh fruit. Then we walked with the elephants down to a muddy reserve where we gave them a mud bath (and got pretty covered in mud ourselves!) Then we walked with them over to the river where we bathed and brushed them. It was absolutely beautiful! I honestly cannot recommend this experience enough and it’s great to know that you’re contributing to the welfare of the elephants by visiting!

*Please be aware of less than ethical imitations of this company operating under similar names in an effort to attract customers using their caring reputation that do not maintain the same standard or respectful treatment towards their animals. If booking ensure you are booking directing to the official “Elephant Jungle Sanctuary” so that you are supporting the positive change

MISTREATMENT OF ELEPHANTS IN THAILAND

Nowadays, elephants primarily work in the tourism and entertainment sectors. Unfortunately, very few companies treat their elephants ethically, or with the respect they deserve, instead viewing them simply as a profitable business asset. Young elephants are sometimes poached from the wild to be sold and used as novelties in hotels, or trained to perform for tourists. This practice is incredibly damaging to the population of Thai elephants, as the mother (and sometimes other females, such as the chosen ‘foster mother’) is often killed during the poaching process, and this separation greatly endangers the life and long-term health of the infant. Some estimate that as many as 70% of baby elephants currently used in tourism may have been poached from their natural habitat.

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Work includes tourist ridding, logging, and circus activities.

Sometimes they are made to carry people for up to 5 hours. Being forced to work in busy Thailand, slowly wears the elephants down as elephants need to cool down and be allowed to eat more then they are provided. They are hurt at these camps guides use hooks to force them to carry tourists which they hit the elephants with, causing bleeding.

WHY NOT TO RIDE AN ELEPHANT

Elephants are not designed to carry weight on their back. They have evolved to support a mass amount of weight suspended below their spine. Elephants spines are not like horses for instance. In order for an elephant to be ridden, it needs to be put through a ritual called Phajaan. The word “phajaan” is a ritual that is practiced in Thailand by tribes and has been around for hundreds of years. It can best be described as “Crushing” an elephants spirit. I’m not going to go into too much detail here because it’s absolutely heart breaking and frankly unbelievable that this type of torture is happening but you can read a bit more about it here. Once the tribe feel the baby elephant has had its ‘spirit broken’, it will have nothing left to do but submit, listen and learn what the masters are trying to teach it. It’s absolutely outrageous and all the for enjoyment of tourists.

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