We went for a day trip to Elephant Nature Park, which is an hour outside of Chiang Mai City. The park was founded by a small Thai woman named Lek, who has a big heart. She rescues abused and neglected elephants and gives them back some of their freedom. Visitors to the park are able to feed and bath the elephants. Beyond that the interaction with the elephants is minimal unless the elephants themselves choose to visit. There is no elephant trekking or elephants painting or performing other circus tricks. The mahouts do not use whips, spears or hooks to enforce discipline. All of the adult elephants have sad histories of abuse ranging from landmine accidents to being blinded with spears to drug addiction to street begging. Most tourists supporting elephant tourism do not know how greatly these huge animals suffer. Lek Is trying to change this cycle of elephant abuse and neglect by educating owners on proper treatment and care. She also is trying to set an example with her park by encouraging tourism that does not exploit the elephants but rather celebrates these creatures in a more natural environment. Several babies have been born at the park and these elephants now serve as an example of her success using positive reinforcement training as opposed to severe violence to break their spirits.
To learn more about Lek's work to save Thailands elephants or to make a donation please visit http://www.elephantnaturepark.org