Want to know what the elephant sanctuary is like? Take a look for yourself…
Here at Gap Year Travel we are big believers in ecotourism. One of the biggest draws to our Camp Thailand program and Camp Cambodia program is the opportunity to work alongside majestic elephants; we love sharing photos and videos that our Campers take while they’re out here, but we feel like you’re not hearing the whole story…
In Thailand, elephants are considered to be domesticated animals and they are often used for labour or to make money in tourist riding Camps. These incredible creatures that we work with all came from somewhere, they all have a story to be told and so do the people that work tirelessly all year round to rescue and rehabilitate them: this is their story.
We’ve all seen photos of our friends travelling, smiles from ear to ear, sat on the back of an elephant riding through the jungle, even clips of adorable baby elephants doing tricks in front of a large crowd. While these things might look innocent on the surface, there’s a dark side to this type of treatment.
Almost all elephants in Thailand will have experienced some form of work within the tourist or logging trades, something which can be a pretty horrific experience for these gentle giants. Before any elephant is set to work it goes through a process known as ‘phajaan’ or ‘the crush’. This means to break a baby elephant from its spirit and it’s the traditional torture of young elephants, used to force their will to submit to humans – this process is very brutal. The elephants are confined, tied down, beaten, starved, poked and tortured until its spirit breaks.
Here at Gap Year Travel, we are dedicated to helping these incredible animals and re-educating unsuspecting tourists about elephant welfare. This is why we work with some of the best people in elephant conservation in Thailand and Cambodia.
One particular organisation that we are very proud to say that we work with is the Save Elephant Foundation’s ‘Elephant Nature Park’ in the Chiang Mai province. Elephant Nature Park was established in the 1990s and has worked relentlessly since then to rescue and rehabilitate elephants and many other animals. Providing a safe and secure sanctuary, Elephant Nature Park helps to restore a better quality of life for elephants that may have otherwise been killed. The park was founded by an incredible lady named Sangduen ‘Lek’ Chailert. During her time at the park, Khun Lek has rescued around 200 elephants and has even earned herself the title of Asian Hero of the Year 2005, as nominated by Times Magazine!
Elephant Nature Park are devoted to their animals and helping to educate the tourists that visit them. With 250 acres of land to roam, the elephants really do get to go back to being just animals and live their lives in peace. Here, they don’t have to work or perform; the most difficult part of their day now is deciding between a mud bath or wandering around the fields! They really do live the good life at Elephant Nature Park.
As you can see, we really value the wellbeing and life quality of the elephants that we work with out here at Camp Thailand. Our aim is to spread awareness about ‘the truth behind the smile’. We hope to educate you on these issues, so you can go home and spread the word so we can inspire change.
Together, we can make a difference.
No Riding. No bull hooks. JUST LOVE.
Thank you for taking the time to read.
Much love as always,