When you check out things to do in Chiang Mai, Thailand on TripAdvisor, six of the top ten activities are elephant park tours. Yes, elephants are very popular in Northern Thailand. I got a tip from someone earlier in my travels to check out the Elephant Nature Park sanctuary instead of a silly, circus-style tour where you can ride the elephants and watch them create paintings with their trunks. In hindsight I’m glad I went to the Elephant Nature Park.
Elephants Aren’t Horses, Don’t Ride ’em
While I’ve always wanted to ride on an elephant like the king of the jungle, I learned that it’s unnatural for elephants to accept people as riders, unlike it is for horses. Elephants that you see people riding on have been tortured and punished for long periods to train them for the unnatural act of hauling around one or more persons on their back. Often times the elephant has to endure the weight of people all day. The inhumane style of training used to achieve these acts has led to horrible injuries to these unfortunate elephants such as broken legs, scars, tumors, stunted growth, emotional problems, and many others.
Elephants Are Smart!
The reality is that elephants are exceptionally smart animals. They have three times as many neurons as humans! There are many fascinating points to prove their cognitive prowess. The most impressive to me is that Elephants mourn their dead relatives by caressing the remaining bones, often for many hours at a time, and sometimes they try to bury the bones… wow!
Now obviously the world isn’t perfect, and far from it. I’m not one of those holier-than-thou activist preaching types, but I do think it’s important to form an opinion about something you are at least somewhat passionate about, and share it with others… because sharing is caring, right? 😛
Traditional Circus-Style Stunts Are Harmful
I was chatting with a fellow traveler on a different trip (see Doi Inthanon) and he said he went to an elephant show where he got to ride on the elephant and watch them make beautiful paintings with their trunks. He said it was really exciting to be riding on top of such an enormous animal, that is until he heard the horrible sound of the trainer forcefully hitting the elephant’s back. He said he’ll never forget the terrible sound it made. After that he felt uneasy riding on top of the elephant that was being punished and forced into giving him the ride.
Ok, Here are the 4 Reasons why you should check out the Elephant Nature Park:
- You get to feed them
- You get to bathe them
- You get to help them recover from abuse and neglect
- You get to see other rescued animals: dogs, cats, pigs, and LOTS of buffalo