Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai province, Thailand is founded by Sangduen Chailert (Lek)
“Lek” means small in Thai, but she is a force.
She came from humble beginnings, born in a small hill tribe village in Thailand. Her grandfather was a healer and a shaman who received an Elephant as payment for saving a little boys life. Lek’s love for Elephants began with “Golden One” her new Elephant companion. The villagers thought there was something magical about her connection with Golden One, as the giant allowed her to climb up her trunk and perch on top of her head.
All over Asia “Phajjan” is a very old practice of breaking an Elephants spirit. Much suffering is involved. The Elephants are confined to cages, poked violently with wooden spikes, tied up with rope, and beaten until they give in. The mahouts who ride them whip them with a sharpened steel hook, drawing blood if necessary when they become rebellious.
All of this is done to domesticate the animal so if a male, he can work in illegal logging, and if female, works in tourism, giving tourists Elephant rides, painting pictures, riding bikes, and many other silly things that Elephants do not do naturally.
But Lek won Golden One’s obedience and loyalty with positive reenforcement, love, and of course bananas.
The Elephant Nature Park is Lek’s life work. There is so much love here for Elephants and all of the other animals enjoying their lives. All of the people here are so dedicated and care so much for these precious lives. We were honoured to have been a part of the healing process when we volunteered for 7 days. During those 7 days we built stone walkways around the park, picked fruit, shovelled ele poop, washed fruits and vegetables for the Elephants, and worked together with villagers planting trees for a reforestation project. We also cared for a precious newborn baby Elephant who sadly did not make it.
We are presently still with the park helping out at the dog shelter, cleaning kennels, helping with treatments and medication, taking all of the lovely dogs for walks, and generally loving our lives. We also visited a quarantine station AKA dog meat survivor refugee camp in Nakhon Phnom.
If you haven’t seen the video, you can watch it here.
We were lovers of animals before and never went to animal shows of any kind, but just to be here to watch these gentle giants the way they are supposed to live, and to be a part of something so important really transformed our lives.
Lek’s goal is to one day get all of the Elephants back into the wild or at least free from bondage.
The Elephant Nature Park is a 2000 acre sanctuary in the jungle of Chiang Mai province in Thailand.
There are many Elephants here from babies to old ladies. Most have been severely abused in the breaking process, some have damaged limbs due to land mines, and others have lost their sight for refusing to work. Jokia is one of these Elephants.
Jokia was a working Elephant. She was pregnant at the time and walking up a hill with her mahout when her baby decided to arrive. She gave birth while working, and was not allowed to rescue her baby. Her baby died. Jokia refused to work after her loss. Her mahout used a sling shot to her eye forcing her to work. She became blind in one eye. The second time, Jokia was getting violent with her mahout so he stabbed her good eye. She is now fully blind.
She now lives a quiet, peaceful, loving life here at Elephant Nature Park and has made a lifelong friend in Mae Perm, a 67 year old female Elephant. Mae Perm acts as Jokia’s eyes leading her around the park.
Elephants are extremely sensitive, gentle, loving, intelligent animals. They do not deserve the abuse that they have been enduring for thousands of years, nor does any other animal.
Please do not support any animal tourism in any countries that offer entertainment shows.
Animals deserve to live out their natural lives.
You can make a difference. Please do your research. Don’t go to animal shows. Do not ride Elephants. Don’t give money to begging Elephants on the streets. Write the government of Thailand urging them to stop Elephant riding. Tell them you won’t spend your money there. Tell them you want to spend your money somewhere where you can see these gorgeous creatures in their natural space.
Please visit Elephant Nature Park if you are visiting Chiang Mai, Thailand.
It will be one of the highlights (if not the #1) highlight of your whole trip. And if you can’t make it to Asia, donate to all of the lives that count on you for survival.
They all deserve love and life.