14 May 2012

Life Lessons and Elephants

We started in Chiang Mai.  I am now in the last city of my first 33 day circuit and will be leaving in a couple days.  The one tour I knew that would really be worth it is the Elephant Nature Park which is an hour 1/2 north of the city. 
Into the mountains, we came upon a river in a valley.  Here live 34 rescue elephants, all aloud to roam the property freely and get feed copious amounts of food.  They take baths in the river daily and cover themselves up with mud right after.  It's nickname is Elephant Heaven.

After having come to this sanctuary, you learn a lot about how elephants are being treated in Thailand and why their population has dropped by 95% since the 90's when logging was outlawed.  There are only 5,000 left and many of them belong to the tourist industry because of the high profit margins.  Most of the beggar elephants in places like Bangkok suffer immense stress due to improper living conditions within the city.  The same goes for working elephants in small farms.  The ancient technique used for taming elephants by villagers use a "squeeze cage" and beat the elephants with sticks that have nails protruding out the tip.  This ritual lasts as long as three days for females and the males for seven, they are repressed from sleep, food, and water until they "submit."  For these creatures to be the most revered in Thailand, they are not being treated with the respect they deserve.

This sanctuary buys elephants that are being tortured and allows them to live free on the property.  Most have permanent damage such as blindness or broken hips.  Here they are well loved and are given full care to heal.

The day trip consisted of feeding them Pineapple, Squash, and Bananas in the morning time.  The elephant I am feeding is named "Jeeka," meaning eye of heaven, is blind in both eyes.  She had been rescued from a logging industry that had forced her to work while pregnant, then when she gave birth on the job was not aloud to attend to her baby which then rolled down a hill and died.  Being in such a state of morning she refused to work.  The trainers shot rocks into her eye with a slingshot trying to force her to work, she eventually knocked one of the men over and they stabbed her in the other eye.  Luckily when she was introduced to the property the female elephant to the left walked right up to her and adopted her as a friend.  They are always together and they are the best of friends.

After lunch we all got to go to the river and help bath the elephants.  This one had been used as a beggar  in Bangkok and one day got hit by a truck which broke her hip.  She was brought here and aloud to heal enough that she can walk around, but will always have a bad limp.  She was one of the sweetest ones there.

Being able to hang out with these creatures in an environment where they were finally aloud to be at peace was a wonderful experience.  They are gentile creatures that are also highly intelligent and deserve our utmost respect.

Even though these creatures carry deep scares, they have been able to transform.  They still have the ability to love and show compassion.  They build new friendships and show trust in those who nurture them.  They understand their new life and are able to open up to its possibilities.  Even though their past is of suffering, they understand it's in the present that life is good.  Is this what my first 33 days taught me?  Yes, and with this day everything I learned on this trip so far came full circle.

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