The elephant acts in many legends as a wise and submissive animal that used to help man to carry most of the heaviest loads of the past. In Thailand, elephants are highly respected and honored. A sacred animal that deservedly found its place in the flag of this eastern country. Most seriously revered there is the white elephant, which according to local legends, bears the remains of Buddha and automatically elevates it as the most revered. Thai beliefs attribute to these wonderful huge animals a remarkable ability to luck. This is probably why tourists can see elephant sculptures in the most unexpected places – squares, temples and some other sacred Thai places.
Some Interesting Facts About The Elephants
Elephants are the largest mammal on earth.
There are two types of elephants, the African elephant and the Asian elephant. The Asian domestic elephant is much smaller than the African but yet so majestic.
Female elephants can have babies up to the age of 50. They have the longest gestation period of all mammals. They are 22 months pregnant.
Newborn elephants may get up on their feet shortly after birth. They are born blind, weighing up to 118 kg.
Elephants can hear their roars at each other up to 8 km away.
An adult elephant requires up to 300 kg of food and 160 liters of water per day.
An elephant can smell water about 20 km away.
Elephants can detect rain at a distance of 240 km.
Elephants are capable of human emotions such as the feeling of loss and even crying. They remember and grieve for their loved ones, even many years after their death.
Elephants in Thailand are almost mandatory participants in most local holidays and any special events. The locals show great respect for the elephants, as they suggest that their presence will certainly bring success and good luck in almost all good endeavors. As full participants in the celebrations, they are decorated and dressed in every way to emphasize their significant role in any occasion.
One of the most beautiful legends the locals believe in is the legend of the white lotus flower that presented the white elephant to Princess Sirimahamaia in a dream, reporting such incredible images of the birth of a holy child. This is one reason why the white elephant is strictly protected by the state. Elephants with pale pink patches on the skin are considered extremely rare. They are therefore carefully protected.
Noting the importance and decency of this animal, the King of Thailand gives the most devoted and distinguished subjects the White Elephant Order, adorned with precious stones. Presenting such a sign is of great benefit to those who have shown courage and courage, as well as a sign of deepest respect and outstanding service.
In November, the largest and most solemn processions take place, the participants of which become elephants. This is when the streets of Thailand are large elephant marches. The residents and guests of the festival nourish the animals with the most delicious fruits and enjoy the impression of an elephant trip.
Elephant Sanctuary Thailand
Undoubtedly the most suitable environment for all animals not only for elephants is their natural environment in the wild, unfortunately this is not always possible. Many animals have to be rescued from zoos, circuses and more and the elephant is one of them. In many cases they may have been orphaned or injured and then it is very rarely possible to be brought back into the wild by themselves. Then they are sent and accommodated in elephant sanctuaries or rescue and rehabilitation centers. In order to be able to care for them, many centers open doors for tourists and volunteers. And here is how I visited one of these place in Phuket, Thailand in January 2020.
We spent the Christmas and New Year holidays in Thailand. Thailand is well known for its many activities, including elephants. Ride on the back of elephants, performances with elephants dancing, kicking a ball and much more. None of these were acceptable to me, as it is a public secret for everyone around the world what animals go through to be prepared, which in most cases is torture and breaking their will. And this is how we decided we would love to spend half day in Elephant Sanctuary ( I knew about those places for couple of years ).
What is the idea behind those Sanctuaries?
As I mentioned above, the rescued elephants end up in these sanctuaries. In most cases, they are old already, injured and weary of the years of slavery. Given their traumas, they could not survive on their own and here the project takes care that elephants can spend their remaining years without being harassed and free. Sanctuaries are always in the jungle, as they need to have enough free space and away from city life for the elephants to be free in the jungle where they belong. Most often volunteers take care of them (it turns out they need daily care and help). And although the doors are open to tourists, here comes a significant difference from other places. This are not places we pay to ride on the back of the elephants, we don’t pay for their performances etc. We pay to spend half or full day in the natural environment of these habitats, getting to know them, learning their history and why not learn to respect them as they deserve. And I really love the idea behind. It’s amazing we can get to meet with those habitats , get to know them without hurting them anymore. The money we pay are as donation for the sanctuary so they can provide all that they need to survive.
My first experience with Elephants in a Sanctuary
We decided to spend the first day of the new year with Elephants. Before that I have seen them only in zoos. We were able to find available half day tour program in a newly hatched sanctuary. It turned out that their service includes pick-up and return from and to the hotel we were staying in. We wake up early ( although it was the first morning after the New Year celebrations ) and instead of exhausted I was incredibly excited and could not wait for the adventure to begin. The minibus arrived at the agreed hour and after about an hour we crossed the threshold of the sanctuary.
We were greeted warmly and in a happy mood. The care taker was Thai lady with a great sense of humor. The organization was clear and extremely functional. It was explained to us quickly and clearly where we could leave the accessories we carry with us in a secure place with our own key. We signed declarations for our safety and they handed us t-shirts with their logo, which were actually quite comfortable and I personally dressed for the moment. There were variations of different colors and sizes.
Then they explained the program to us. The first meeting with the elephants. The idea of the first meeting is, of course, the first impression ( it is the most important one). It is important for the elephants to feel that we are well-intentioned and to show us the same. Interesting, isn’t it? After that, there was an interesting activity for the group. Cooking a traditional Thai dish, learning the history of elephants and the sanctuary and lunch. Lunch was included in the package and was extremely varied and delicious. Along with lunch we had more than enough bottles of water provided. After lunch, we move on to preparing food and vitamins for the elephants. Again a meeting to feed, massage, swim and have fun with them.
Admittedly, it took me a while to feel comfortable around these wonderful creatures. Their impressive size is startling at the first meeting. At first, I wasn’t confident of myself, so I watched from a distance as others got to know them. As you can see in the video, there was a baby. Baby Adel, two years old, who to this day remains the sweetest creature I have been able to hug. There were bottles of milk to feed and caress them, showing that we were well-meaning. Their impressive size is the first you see. Their skin that makes them look like they’re a million years old until you meet their eyes. The most impressive eyes I’ve ever seen an animal have. Deep and emotional. You realize immediately that they understand everything. You see emotions in their eyes, as if you are looking at a person’s gaze, an incredible feeling. They also turned out to be extremely kind, as you see on the video they greet us. Clearly, they learned this habit from the circuses they were rescued from, but it also shows how well-intentioned they are. After enjoying all the available milk, they were put back for a walk, and for us it was free time to look around and have lunch before meet them again.
Baby Adel !
Doesn’t she look happy and playful ? Love Her !
After a quick interpretation of our role as Thai chefs, we sat down to enjoy lunch, while I looked around. Quite a spacious place in the middle of the jungle. There really was enough free space where elephants could be left to enjoy unrestrained. Sufficient grassy area and water with sand and mud. During this time, our guide told us interesting facts and the difference between African and Asian elephants. We were able to learn the story of the three elephants who lived in the sanctuary, also how difficult it was for them financially to succeed in overall support. It turned out that they had to meet certain standards individually before receiving government assistance. Personally, I was impressed by with how much love she spoke about them, especially baby Adel. She really looked at her like a daughter. I totally understand it, I would spend the rest of my life with them. She told us about their daily routine and funny events with Adele, as if she was really talking about people.
After a delicious lunch we started to prepare the necessary vitamins that elephants need every day. We cut everything we needed, then chopped it up and shaped it into balls. We also prepared bananas. The rest of the mix turned out to be for a massage done behind the ears of the elephants and their belly. Then we meet them again to feed them with the balls and bananas. Later on we went for the massage.
Vitamins and massage mixture
The most wonderful part of all is the end. Swimming and mud massage with them in a small lake. Just unforgettable ! They need mud baths because of their skin. This seems to be their favorite activity. They roll in the mud, spraying water around them.
An incredible day and experience that we will repeat at the earliest opportunity!
Much has been said about the correctness of the sanctuaries. Do they stick to the project, are they honest, do they really save animals.Because I haven’t visited more than one of them personally. I can say that the impressions I have left are absolutely positive. Elephants that were visibly rescued. The one-on-one staff seemed attached to the animals and treated as family. We hope this is the situation in all places.
Elephants are wonderful animals, and for all of you who have watched the classic movie The Elephant, my friend you know that the elephant remember and never forget. They have feelings and know their grandparents just like us. Hopefully more and more people would prefer to spend day in Elephant Sanctuary than Ride Elephants. I promise you this is experience once in live and you would not forget it! You will bond with those amazing creatures in a very special way and for sure can’t get closer than that.