Elephants in Thailand
Elephants have been considered sacred animals for centuries in Thailand. It is believed that they were given to people by the Buddha during the drought because according to believe they have the power to bring rain. They are used for hard work in the field, but at the same time surrounded by love and respect. Once, the number of elephants owned by the king represented his power. Today, every white elephant according to the right belongs to the king.
Breaking the spirit
Unlike horses, the elephant to be able to sit up must go through the Phajaan training, which translates to “breaking the spirit”. Small baby elephants are closed in tight crates, bound and tortured until their psyche is broken. When the elephant finally succumbs to his new guardian, who has not been involved in torture so far. The elephant sees him as a savior and begins to trust him.
In Thailand, there are also places that allow close encounters with elephants but do not allow riding on them. They call themselves sanctuaries and declare that they do not torture elephants. They buy back retired or sick elephants from people and give them a new life. One of such places is Elephant Jungle Sanctuary in Chiang Mai.
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary
A sanctuary is really camps in the forest where elephants are staying. There are various packages of visits: Morning, evening, all-day or even two-day with an overnight stay in the sanctuary. Due to the fact that my stay in Chiang Mai was limited, I chose my morning visit, which cost 1700THB. Before 7 o’clock in the morning, a standard jeep with a larger packet in the back and seats sat at my hostel. After about an hour and a half, we arrived at camp no. 2 where we got the traditional costumes of Karen and we could listen to the elephants and the mission of the sanctuary. Then we got chopped pieces of bamboo and we went down to feed the elephants and we could have some fun with them. Another point of the program was taking the elephants to the river and bathing with them. Just before departure to Chiang Mai we had lunch. More information about this sanctuary can be found on the website: https://elephantjunglesanctuary.com/