Life is a journey

Life is a journey

onsdag 13. desember 2017

Elephant abuse in Thailand and the fight for freedom

I haven’t written a lot of blogposts during this journey as it takes a lot of time and energy, but this topic is something I just have to write about, and to share with people back home.
The last week I have been lucky to spend as a volunteer at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai.
It’s a bit ironic that i say “lucky”, because it was everything except a holiday. We worked 5-6 hours every day, and had breakfast at 07 am, which is way earlier then I normally wake up. I would still say lucky though, because the camp was fully booked every week until the end of January as long as I checked their homepage, but the last time I checked just to give it one last try, it was one free spot the exact week I was looking for. It took me 2 minutes to decide to book it, and I’m so happy that I did. 
I didn’t really know what to expect, and I have to admit that even though I have heard about the dark side of elephant abuse in Thailand, I didn’t know that much as I do now.

So, to the beginning.
Elephant Nature Park started as an Elephant sanctuary, a place for rescued elephants, in 1990.
By that time they had 4 elephants. It’s the women called Lek who started the whole camp, after she had witnessed elephant abuse by her own eyes as a teenager.
She studied by that time, but worked beside her studies to save money for medicine for the elephants.
During the past years, she have built up what today is Chiang Mai’s biggest Elephant sanctuary, and is doing an amazing job, trying to save as many elephants as possible.
At this time, they have 74 elephants, 200 cats and 200 dogs. In addition to this they also have 200 water buffalo’s, 3 monkeys, some horses, goats and sheep’s.

The cats have been rescued from the streets and is now living as kings and queens at a big area called “Cat kingdom”. It surely is a cat kingdom. They can go in and out of their cages whenever they want, and people can come inside and cuddle with them, and give them some love.
They seem very friendly and nice to each other, so despite the fact they all want your love when you enter the area, I’m sure they live a quite happy life.

The dogs were not really planned, but after the flooding in Bangkok in 2011, many of the dogs got stranded, as their owners had to save themselves.
Lek decided to save as many dogs as possible even though they didn’t had space for them, but they couldn’t just sit there and watch them drown and die.
They saved the dogs, and opened up for the owners to come and get their dog back, but barely no one came, sadly enough.
Overall, they helped more than 2000 dogs, and 200 of them were brought to ENP.
Since the flood, they built areas for the dogs to play and relax, and decided to keep on going with the dog project. Now, they still save a lot of dogs from the surrounding communities, as well as from the illegal dog meat trade in Laos and Vietnam.
Many of the dogs are walking around as they want at the camp, and really seem to live a happy life.
Some of them have such a strong personality, and it was so funny to see their daily routine from day to day. They sleep at the same spot, they rest at the same spot and you can find them at certain spots at the same time.
One of the dogs I just called “fatty” was waiting at the same spot every day, as he knew this is where the tourists go out to feed the elephants. This is also where the bananas are, so after lunch I always saw him chewing on a banana! Hahaha… And I didn’t even know dogs ate bananas :p
Its possible to adopt both the dogs and the cats and the camp take all the costs concerning the flights and transport, so if anyone wants to adopt a cat or a dog – let me know

Back to the elephants.
We got to come quite close to them during the week, and it’s quite impressive to stand face to face to such a big and powerful animal.
Some of the elephants are more friendly and peaceful then others, while someone could actually kill you if you got too close.
Lek told us that most of the elephants she has rescued are a bit older, who have suffered their entire life. That is why most of them have a physical injury like broken hips, broken back, destroyed foot/leg, 2 have stepped on a landmine and gets daily treatment, some is blind of the flash and the lights after street begging, one is deaf, and one have lost half of her ear.
Most of them have mental problems when they arrive, and it could take many years before they get back to themselves.
One of the elephants stepped on a landmine but was still forced to work. She was saved by ENP, and gets daily treatment. 

This elephant have a broken ancel, and injury on the other leg. She have big problems to walk, and is mostly standning still the whole day. 
 So why do they have all of these problems?
I guess all of us, at least one time during our life have seen elephants perform at a circus or show (playing football, painted or danced), been riding an elephant when we have been in Thailand, taken picture of an elephant in the street or something similar. If you haven’t done it yourself, I’m sure you have seen a picture of movie of it from someone you know, or online.
I have done all of it, and I get sick when I think that I have contributed to the awful abuse of these animals.
Because…. Elephants doesn’t paint or dance by themselves. They are not born to carry 200 kg 10 times a day. They are trained to do all of this!!!
Baby elephants are taken away from their mum when they are small, tighten up with chains around their feet and is going through a “program” called Pajhaan.
They stand like this for days or weeks, until they have lost their soul and do as their mahout tells them to do. They get starved and beaten by a hook, get big wounds and destroyed for life.

The elephants get tighten up by chains and learned to follow order 

This is what the elephants need to go through for you to do the activity to the right.
In addition to the tourism another big problem is the logging industry, which means they have to drag big trees or similar. Many of the elephants fall during this logging and break their legs or backs. 

To get a better understanding of what I’m talking about, check out this video:
The ugly truth of elephant riding

As you can see in the movie, Elephant Nature Park (ENP) are doing an incredible job by saving as many animals as possible, and even though it was quite expensive to stay at the park AND work, I’m actually proud to say that I have been a part of the help, they are dependent on.

So. To some more funny things 😊
I learned a lot about elephants, and I want to share it with you.
  • The baby elephants go to bed around 16.00 / 4PM
  • They eat 10 % of their body weight, around 250 kg food every day!!! 
  • ENP pay more then 3 million bath each month for food. This means 92 000 dollars or 770 000 NOK!! 
  • ENP have around 300 employees. If you include their park in Cambodia, its more then 500 people. Despite all of these people, they would never been able to do all the things we, the volunteers are helping with. To empty a whole truck with watermelons, pumpkins or bananas take 2-3 hours with 20 people! 
  • Every elephant have their own mahoot. This is a person who follow the elephant until he/she dies. Most of the time, the elephant doesn’t accept any other person to come close, and we heard stories about one elephant at the camp who actually died just 2 weeks after her mahoot left. 
  • A mahoot is mostly guys. This is because girls can get pregnant and then have to leave the elephant. This is not good for the elephant, so if you have signed up for being a mahoot, it could be your only work in this life, as elephants could be more then 100 years.
  • Most of the older elephants at ENP have lost their baby, but like human beings – an elephant mum will always be a mum ,and her biggest whish is to take care of a baby. That is why all the babies have 2 or maybe 4 “Nanny’s”. They protect the baby, follow him/her everywhere and take care of her. 
  • Elephants are a social animal, and need to be with other elephants to live a happy life. Those who live by themselves often dies within short time. 
  • One old elephant cost around 500 000 bath to save. That’s 15 000 US or 130 000 NOK. 
  • A baby elephant is way more expensive. 3 million bath!! 92 000 US or 770 000 NOK!
    That’s hell of a lot money in Thailand. 
  • They love to bath as this cools them down on a hot summerday. They also use the mud and sand to cool down if they dont have access to water. 
  • They get quite cold in the winter time in Thailand, so ENP make a bonfire for them and put blankets over the old elephants to keep them warm in the night. 
  • Elephants have a crazy good memory! 
3 elephants who are bathing together, and they LOVE it!! 

A happy baby elephant :) 

Mum and baby together! They will live a happy life thanks to ENP

Food time!! haha 

I will tell you a story that both surprised and impressed me.
Lek (the camp manager) was going to hire a new mahoot. Most of the time its up to the elephant to decide. If the elephant doesn’t accept him being close they either have to find another mahoot, or another elephant to the mahoot.
In this case they already had an elephant who needed a mahoot.
Therefor, Lek gave him some bananas and asked him to feed the elephant.
The guy went over to the elephant, but instead of eating the bananas the elephant stepped on the bananas and smashed them.
The guy got back to Lek and said the elephant wasn’t hungry. Let me just say one thing: Elephants are aaaalways hungry!!!
She asked if he knew the elephant or have seen her before but he said no.
She decided to do an experiment, so she got 4 of her volunteer workers, putted them up in a line, 1,2,3, the mahoot, and 4. The elephant accepted the bananas from everyone, but not the mahoot. She did exactly the same as before, stepped on the banana and smashed it.
Lek asked again if the guy knew the elephant but he kept saying no.
She gave him one final chance, but finally the mahoot confirmed. He did knew the elephant.
12 years ago (!) he was using her for trekking and shows in another city.
He used to show the tourists the teeth from the elephant. He putted something in her mouth to open up, and made sure she couldn’t close it. When she was finished, she always got a banana as a reward. One time, he was joking in front of the tourists and throw poop in her mouth.
That is obviously something the elephant never forgot, and still 12 years later she have not forgiven him!

How crazy is that????

These animals are not just incredibly beautiful, they are really smart!! 

A baby elephant following his mahoot to get bananas

Elephants love to bath in the mud as this makes the cool down on a hot summer day 

Bathing the elephants is a fun experience, but something the ENP will take off the schedule next year due to security. 

I could go on and on forever and share things with you, but I’ll let it be with this.
Before I went to the camp, people, including myself asked the question “what are they using the money at”, and now I know. They spend so much money on food, to pay other camps to take the saddle off, buy/save elephants, medicine, food for all animals, tourists and volunteers, and to upgrade and update the facilities at the camp.
I am happy to be able to say that I have been helping the camp, by working and kind of donating money.

I would encourage everyone, young or old, to take a week and work at this camp if you are in the area, or just donate! Your money has a huge impact on the work they are doing, even if its just a small amount.

What you can start to do is to share this post or just the video further up, and help me and Elephant Nature Park, to educate people about the elephants.
Say NO to elephant riding and elephant abuse!

Feel free to check out Elephant Nature Park Homepage as well! 

Ingen kommentarer:

Legg inn en kommentar