Gentle giants: the elephant nature park Chiang Mai 

I visited the elephant nature park when I first arrived in Thailand (before I started writing about my adventures). It was such a magical experience that I think it deserves a place on my blog! 

If you asked me to recommend something to do whilst visiting Thailand, the elephant nature park would be straight up there without a second thought. 

On the surface, elephants seem to be worshipped in Thailand. Paintings and statues of elephants are everywhere. Sadly this is not the case. There is a history of abuse when it comes to elephants. Something that is still going due to the money tourists are willing to pay to ride elephants and see them perform.  

The elephant nature park picked everyone up from their hostel. In the minibus a video was played. It was early in the morning and I was not prepared to see what we were shown. They showed secret footage of what was going on behind the scenes across Thailand. 

In order for a person to ride an elephant, the elephant is subjected to a large amount of abuse as an infant. Babies are stolen from mothers to be trained at a young age. They are then tied up in a confined space for days on end. Tied up, starved, dehydrated and beaten. Cruel torture techniques which made my skin crawl. The trainers/mahouts, literally break the elephants strength and sanity. 

Elephant training – here’s a link for real life footage of how the elephants are trained. The video could be distressing for some people and so watch with caution! 

Once ‘tamed’ the abuse does not stop. The elephants now associate the mahout and the hook they carry with pain, and so will do as they are ‘told’. This allows humans to ride and interact with the elephants.

The elephants at the park are rescued elephants, saved from the cruelty and mistreatment mentioned above. Most of which have either physical or mental impairments. The park are doing all that they can to nurse the elephants back to the best level of health possible. Nurturing and caring for them, whilst providing a safe and natural environment for them to live. 

There is no elephant riding at the elephant nature park. Instead, you’re able to assist with feeding the elephants, wandering the grounds with them, and helping them to bathe. You’re assisting with the daily care of the elephants, allowing the money to be spent on more important things such as expensive medical care. 

The money you spend on visiting the park; whether it’s a day visit or volunteering, helps to keep the park running and changing the lives of many elephants. 

The guide which takes you around the park is extremely knowledgeable about the care and history of the elephants. They were able to answer any questions the group had.

Rescued cats and dogs also live in harmony alongside each other and the elephants. They can be seen on casually roaming the park. 

A lot of work goes into ensuring the elephants get all of the right nutrition

I know how attractive riding an elephant may be, before doing my research I wanted to do exactly the same. Naive to the fact that the elephants suffer in order to allow you to ride them. 

I hope after reading this you will take into consideration the elephant nature park as an option; or at the least do your own research. Go to the elephant nature park, and if you then still want to ride an elephant that’s up to you! 

For more information visit the Elephant nature park website


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