Thailand: Elephant Nature Park

We were picked up in the van for the Elephant Nature Park around 8:30 this morning and then it was a little over an hour to the ENP. We watched a movie on the way up about the park, its founder, and some of the elephants there. The elephants are all rescued from abusive situations or they are retired working elephants that have no where to go (and can't live in the wild because they are not wild).

Once we arrived, we got to feed some elephants their breakfast. Each elephant had a basket of fruit and vegetables to eat that was her own. We would hand them a bunch of bananas, half of a pineapple, half of a squash, etc. If someone handed her one banana, she would wait for more to put in her trunk before popping it into her mouth. Anna was super excited to feed the elephants, Sarah needed a little nudging, and I was surprised that Henry was not as hesitant as he was to pet the tiger cub. I mean, these elephants are huge and the tiger cub was pretty small, relatively! I guess he understood that elephants have a reputation for being gentle and tigers don't!

After the elephants ate their breakfast, we went for a walk through the fields and we got to pet a few elephants and hang out with them for a bit. It was surprising how often you could be standing there and suddenly a giant elephant was right behind you! They are very quiet creatures. I was worried the kids would get accidentally stepped on but, obviously, that did not happen (thank goodness!). We walked over to where there was a new baby elephant and his mother. The mother was eating while the baby played with the mahout. He was adorable!

Next up was an amazing lunch (all vegetarian--in fact everything I've had on this trip has been vegetarian) and then it was time to give the elephants a bath in the river. We all got a bucket and walked down to the water. The idea was to just throw the water at the elephant and get her wet all over. The mahouts had bananas to keep the elephant in the water and I really expected the elephants to reach in the water with their trunks to help with their baths but they did not. As soon as bath-time was over, the elephants went to the mud and covered themselves in their sunscreen and scratched itchy spots on posts. I was really wishing we had booked the overnight stay at the park but when I made the reservation I just wasn't sure how Henry, in particular, was going to handle the day. I actually would have loved to just spend the entire week there!

After bath (and Henry needed a change of clothes since he got soaked playing in the water) we watched a short film about Thailand's elephants. Henry fell asleep and snored SO LOUD! The girls loved the movie and we learned about the violent methods that are traditionally used to get elephants to comply with the mahouts commands and to get them to do the work that they do.

After the movie, we had one more chance to feed the elephants and then it was time to get back in the van and head back to the hotel. Now, I think it was good that we went to the monkey school, snake farm, and Tiger Kingdom because we were able to compare the experiences and talk about the way that we treat animals and their living conditions, etc. This was by far my favorite day of the trip but we still have a few more days to go!

January 2013

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