Volunteering with Elephants
There are only about 4000 Asian elephants left in Thailand, and about half of them roam free in the jungle, and the others are domesticated. Although these animals have been worshiped for centuries here, there are no laws to protect them.They have no higher status than livestock and are seen as a money maker. Elephants, especially babies, are captured from their jungle home and taken from their mothers to be used as street beggars, used in performances or trekking companies for tourists. Some are overworked to death and some develop stress disorders for life from being tortured. The park I’m volunteering at for a week is a safe haven for rescued elephants. It does not support elephant riding, as elephants have to go through a “breaking period” where they are stabbed and tortured into being submissive for humans on their back. Elephants are meant to roam free, not be a mode of transportation for our enjoyment.If you come to Asia please do your research on what kind of elephant parks you visit, because not all are the same, and some still allow this animal torture just so tourists can ride them!
I have been at Elephant Nature Park for the past week volunteering and it’s definitely one of the coolest things I have done in my life. I can’t think of a better place to start my mornings staring into the landscape to watch the elephants bathe or play together. Being so close to these amazing animals and becoming educated on their plight makes me want to take action to help them ; to be a voice for their future. It’s sad to think of a world where our children’s children could possibly only know an elephant from a textbook or a zoo. They deserve to be treated equally and roam free.They have a right on this planet just as much as we do. Hopefully protection laws for the Asian elephant will come to Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia soon.
There are about 35 other weekly volunteers from all around the world. Our daily activities include planting pumpkin seeds, cleaning elephant poo (not as bad as you think it would be) cleaning up the park, bathing and feeding the elephants, making mud pits, unloading fruit trucks and preparing elephant food. Today we got to visit a local school to practice english and play with the kids. That was definitely one of the highlights so far.
There’s a lot more free time than I expected, and I usually hang out on the skywalk watching the elephants or drinking beers at night with the other volunteers. We’ve also been playing soccer in the evenings against the locals and you can even go tubing down the river, but I had to sit that one out with the recent Sak Yant tattoo I had done.
Tonight is our farewell dinner and last night with the elephants. We have met some pretty cool people here while volunteering, some that our going to join us on our next stop, PAI!