A few weeks ago my wife and I took the chance to participate in a volunteer program dedicated to help elephants that were abused by the tourism or the logging industry. With the initiative and hard work of Lek Chailert and her team many of these elephants found a new home in her sanctuary where they are treated with respect and love.
The stories of these elephants are often heart-breaking. Many of the elephants are taken away from their mothers and families only a few days after birth so they can work in the street-begging business where tourists pay to get a picture.
Another reason why they are being separated when they need their mothers the most is because it is easier to break their spirit when they are still young which is also known as 'crushing'. The elephants are tied up in a cage where they cannot move - not even their trunk - and they are being tortured for several days with hooks, nails and all sort of tools. During this time they are not allowed to sleep and don't get any food until they lose their will to live. This is what is needed for all the elephants in order to control them so tourists can have a ride on their back or they can be used and trained for circus and other stupid entertaining events. Although the elephants seem big and strong their spine is just not made for carrying human beings or these bulky seats so as tourists feel more comfortable on top of them.
Other elephants are working in the logging industry where they have to pull heavy logs under disastrous conditions. Many of them were blinded with iron poles or wooden sticks so they cannot focus on other things than work or just as punishment.
Blinded, with broken legs or hips or with severe mental problems they are found by Lek and her team and brought to the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai where they get treatment and where they start living in freedom again. Free and in nature they start to build herds again and enjoy their new environment without punishment and work.
As weekly volunteers we were helping the team with the daily tasks like cutting corn on the field and bringing it back or unloading hundreds of pumpkins and watermelons and washing each one of them. Or cleaning their shelters.
In this park we had the chance to witness how they behave when they are just themselves. We saw them running around and greeting each other, we saw them playing in the river or just having fun taking a mud bath. It was a great and eye-opening experience.
If you are interested to know more about ENP or even to help as Volunteer you can find more information on their website (http://www.elephantnaturepark.org/) or on their FB site (www.facebook.com/TheElephantNaturePark/?fref=ts)
If someone is interested in purchasing some of the photographs I took there please click on the pictures or click HERE.
***ALL THE PROFIT WILL GO TO THE ELEPHANT NATURE PARK!***
(With a purchase of a photograph you are helping Lek and her team to find more elephants in need and buy them from their owners, make sure that they have the medicine and equipment they need, make sure that they can pay a good salary to the Mahouts which are with the elephants the whole day long, buying more land and enlarge the park and so much more...)