Which animal comes to mind when you think of Thailand? Probably a lovely, precious creature, an elephant smiling at you. Then, why do people bring these creatures to mind? Let’s get to the details of this beautiful creature and elephant sanctuaries to protect these creatures!
The elephant is a national symbol of Thailand, and Thai people revere the animal that one of the old versions of Thai flag features a white elephant. The Thai elephant is called ‘Chang Thai’. Thai elephants have been playing big roles in Thai history and culture. Elephants symbolize honor, courage, generosity, and royal authorities from time memorial in Thailand. People also considered them an animal of longevity and faith. Further, they were put to use in wars and were a means of transportation.
Thailand is home to a significant portion of elephants in Asia. According to Reuters, 3,500 to 3,700 wild elephants remain in Thailand as of 2019. Elephants have been employed in tourism nationwide. For instance, elephant riding was a part of travel itineraries. However, criticisms regarding elephant tourism grew because it entailed elephants’ pain.
1. 5 Things to Keep in Mind Before Visiting Elephants
These are the basic facts about elephants, which will help you behave properly at elephant sanctuaries.
1) Elephants sleep standing
If elephants rest their trunks on the ground, it indicates that they are sleeping. They sleep standing for 30 seconds to a few minutes in intervals, and about four hours throughout the day; they spend the rest wandering for food and water.
2) Elephants eat a lot
Elephants eat a tremendous amount of food and spend over half a day eating. Adult elephants can consume between 90-270 kg (200-600 pounds) of food in one day and can drink up to 190 liters (50 gallons) of water a day. They eat grasses, tree foliage, bark, twigs, and other vegetation since they are herbivores.
3) Taking care of calves is top priority for female elephants
Since female elephants can give birth throughout most of their lives, rearing calf is their primary activity other than eating and drinking.
4) Elephants can get sunburns
Even though elephants have thick skin, they can get sunburnt just like us. So, they coat themselves with dirt and mud to protect their skin from the sun.
5) Elephants have an amazing 4-octave vocal range
We only hear the trumpeting of elephants. That’s because we human beings can’t hear most elephant sounds.
2. Issues on Elephants in Thailand
‘Elephant tourism’ was caught up in a web of controversy, because the process of taming elephants to be suitable for tourism was cruel. For example, a brutal ritual called ‘Phajaan‘ is the most notorious practice. It is a long process of abusing a baby elephant to be trained in the tourism industry, a typical example being a show or a circus. Elephants that go through Phajaan suffer from trauma to the extent that they cannot recognize their own mother elephant. As the criticisms regarding these practices rose to dominance and people wanted a more ethical and sustainable alternative, elephant sanctuaries emerged.
3. Efforts to Protect Elephants
As elephant tourism is deeply involved with the economy of local communities along with numerous employees, it was tricky to eradicate the entire tourism and release elephants in the wildlife. Therefore, people suggested elephant protection programs as an alternative form of elephant tourism and a means of protecting elephants at the same time.
Elephant sanctuaries are a part of protecting endangered, lost, and disabled elephants in need of help. They provide elephants with an adequate amount of water, food, walks, and help bathe them. The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary in Thailand is an organization and a part of an ethical and sustainable eco-tourism project. It aims to protect elephants by providing them with a safe shelter and care.
4. Ethical and Sustainable Elephant Sanctuaries all around Thailand
1) Elephant Jungle Sanctuary
The camps of Elephant Jungle Sanctuary over Thailand run volunteer programs and help boost the community by hiring local people. Also, they carry out sustainable policies to take part in environmental protection. For instance, they make various materials like fiber paper and soap from the feces of elephants. It is possible because elephants mainly eat fiber, thereby making the feces good raw material. Moreover, elephant poop is used to make compost to grow coffee plants.
Visitors can learn the lifestyle of elephants in these sanctuaries. Noteworthy property is that there are no hooks, chain and riding is prohibited. Of course, there shouldn’t be any of them. You can be a friend to these adorable creatures and cherish them. You can feed them, bathe them with mud, and take pictures with them. Also, guides will explain an outline of the sanctuary and things about elephants.
Check out sanctuary visit and read reviews of previous visitors:
- Chiang Mai Elephant Jungle Sanctuary
- Zipline Adventure from Chiang Mai (+ option for Elephant Sanctuary Visit)
- Phuket Jungle Elephant Jungle Sanctuary
- Pattaya Elephant Jungle Sanctuary
- Khao Sok Elephant Jungle Sanctuary
Previous visitors were content with how people treated elephants. They witnessed elephants roaming around freely and they were not mistreated or tortured. Furthermore, there were no harmful or dangerous tools such as chains or knives.
2) Kanchanaburi ElephantsWorld
ElephantsWorld in Kanchanaburi Province is a sanctuary for sick, old, disabled, abused, and rescued elephants. They can enjoy themselves in their own natural environment here. As a visitor, you will have a memorable experience with beautiful animals and will help taking care of them by feeding them, gathering food, and bathing them.
Above all, if you like animals and have read the reviews of previous visitors to elephant sanctuaries, you will be eager to visit these places. People reported that elephants were far from stress and they could not find demanding tasks or situations to elephants. Besides, they discovered that workers respect elephants and care for them with a lot of love. To protect elephants in Thailand, what we can do as a traveler is to investigate which sanctuary is ethical and sustainable, and to keep a pair of critical eyes on them. A lot of efforts have changed the former bad practices into better ones. Thus, it has made it possible for elephants to coexist with human beings. For us, visiting these places is one means to save these presents from nature.
We wish the well-being of all elephants around the world and hope an ethical and sustainable operation of elephant sanctuaries.
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Delilah Hart from Flickr