Those who wish to pet and baby wild animals “love” them.
But those who respect their natures
and wish to let them live normal lives, love them more.
~ Edwin Way Teale
Great postcard about friendship from a great friend.
Not to get too dramatic, but sometimes making a differences makes it all worth it. You see, like many travel bloggers, I got into this because I was traveling far from home and family. I started putting photos online as a way to keep in touch. Although I’m not traveling as much as I’d like right now, I am still living as an expat, which teaches its own kinds of lessons about differences and culture.
I’ve met, either virtually or in person, many travel bloggers and am impressed with how many of them are consciously making an effort to get the word out about responsible tourism. My online friend, Diana, of d travels ’round, has been working hard to educate people about the horrors of elephant torture in Thailand for some time. Among other things, she wrote a piece for World Nomads explaining why elephant riding should be removed from your bucket list. It’s hard to believe that all the cute football-playing, painting, trekking elephants – even those trained to beg on the streets – have been through so much suffering, but it’s true.
Nearly all “domesticated” Asian elephants in Thailand – and indeed, most of Asia – are beaten and abused in the most unimaginably heart-rending fashion in order to get them to submit to so-called training. For most it begins when they are calves, first torn away from their mothers (if wild-caught, the mothers and the rest of the heard may be killed), then put through the Phajaan or crush. I am reluctant to include a photo of it here, as I find the whole thing so upsetting. However, I recognize how powerful images are in conveying the immensity of this crime. If you are still considering riding elephants in Asia, please see some pictures here, from an article titled, “PHAJAAN”: A CRUEL TRADITION, or simply do a search for “phajaan”. If that doesn’t get you to change your mind, I don’t know what will.
In any case, I’d been posting about this on Facebook, Twitter, G+, and other social media networks for some time when my friend, Abi (whose photos I’d previously featured in Dreaming of Asia: Part 2) told me she was planning a trip to Thailand. Thanks to what she’d read on my page, she was not only NOT going to ride elephants, as she’d originally planned to do, but she was going to visit the Elephant Nature Park, a wonderful sanctuary for rescued and abused elephants outside of Chiang Mai. Diana, whose never-ending passion for protecting elephants led to a job at ENP, would be there. My online and real life worlds were colliding and in the best way!
This morning I received the postcard pictured above. Abi sent it on the 21st of December, hence the title of this post. (In fairness, I am also trying to get into Doctor Who and just watched the episode titled The End of The World.) On the postcard, she said:
“Just finished my day trip @ ENP. Can’t wait to share! …such a stunning [experience] that I can take part in feeding, bathing and feeling the emotion of these adorable creatures …not just seeing them drawing funny pictures!”
Many self-titled “sanctuaries” are nothing of the kind. Elephants are still forced to carry people, perform tricks, play games, and paint. The Elephant Nature Park is different – it’s ALL about the elephants being happy and free to wander in a natural environment. I’m so glad Abi got to experience this, both for herself and for the elephants. They are so sensitive, loving, and intelligent, I can’t imagine supporting their suffering. Although the title of this post mentions the end of the world, for many elephants, ENP is the beginning of a new life – one of no longer having to suffer, of having freedom to roam, and of being loved.
If you are interested in visiting the Elephant Nature Park, please visit the Save Elephant Foundation‘s website. Although other sites can book tours to ENP, this is the only site you should book through. I haven’t yet been, but with elephant trekking permanently removed from all future travel plans, a visit to the ENP is at the top of my list.
Love elephants, don’t ride them.
Abi is a wonderful photographer and has already posted some of her pictures on Facebook. However, as I am exercising my right to experience a Facebook-free Friday, I won’t be grabbing any today. I’ll see if I can convince Abi to put up her favorites onto her online portfolio for easy sharing.
Your first quote says it all. I have not been to Thailand and wasn’t aware of the all the torture, so thank you for sharing this.
Glad to be of service, Christina. It’s not just Thailand, but apparently most of Asia, too. I hope you’ll help get the word out now that you know – and maybe visit ENP some time. :)
Love the quote and message. Elephants aren’t the only ones who often get abused in the name of tourism. Big cats and many other animals are often abused and even drugged so that tourists can pose with them for photos…very sad. A wild animal is best seen in the wild!
Agreed, although my younger self is conflicted about that. I grew up going to Sea World and the zoo, which is a big part of why I am so fascinated with and love animals so much. How can we bring that same first-hand experience to children without infringing on the rights and happiness of animals?
Breaks my heart just hearing about it. I’m sure I couldn’t bear to see the photos. Keep up the good work of putting out the word, travel bloggers!
Yeah, it’s awful. You can just about hear the elephants crying. Glad to be a part of changing this – and glad Diana and Abi are, too.