Bruce and I spent a lovely morning at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary which is about 1 1/2 hours South of Chiang Mai, Thailand. We got picked up in a songthaew (pick up truck thing) and drove along a windy road through rolling hills, forests and local farms.
When we arrived, the group were told about the history of elephants being used for logging and how local farmers now lease their elephants to local tour operators as they need the money. It was also explained that many of the elephants ‘leased’ to riding camps are not well looked after, treated cruelly and underfed (they eat a huge amount each day). The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary was founded in July 2014. It is a joint initiative between the Karen hill-tribes and Chiang Mai locals who were concerned about the welfare of elephants in Thailand. They endeavour to educate the public and to help rescue some elephants, and to teach about ethical animal tourism. It is a non-riding elephant sanctuary where the elephants are cared for and they don’t have to work… Just put up with lots of tourists trying to feed them and have their photo taken.
After the info, we met the elephants and spent time feeding them sugar cane and bananas. There were a couple of young ones which were very cute and a female which was due to give birth in a month. I didn’t know that elephants are pregnant for 2 years!! Anyway we took heaps of photos.
Next we changed into some suitable clothing for a mud bath with the elephants…well some of us did. I think some of the young girls would have regretted wearing their white bikinis! We (the oldies of the group) slipped and slid down to the mud ponds and joined the ‘tourists’ and elephants rolling around in the mud…and with some elephant poop!
Not very hygienic but we got into the spirit of things and rubbed mud onto the elephants’ backs. Mahouts (elephant carers) made sure everyone was also covered in mud! Later we moved onto a section of the river and washed off as much mud as we could from the elephants and ourselves. Lovely to see the elephants spraying water and enjoying themselves!
I wouldn’t really know how to tell but the elephants seemed happy and well cared for and reproducing! Although last time we visited Chiang Mai we went on a riding tour with elephants I’m pleased we chose a non riding tour this time and learnt some more about the elephant tours. ‘Animal tourism’ needs to be done ethically. It is our responsibility to put our money into the hands of programs that make animals lives better not worse.
It was a great experience and fun way to spend the morning.
The final wash off…
Happy travels from Chiang Mai.