This specific program – The Karen Elephant Experience – takes a small group two hours outside the city of Chiang Mai, deep into the mountains of Thailand for one day. Once you arrive to the sanctuary you not only walk with, feed, bathe and swim with the elephants, but they also educate you on the dark side of tourism and how we can make a difference.
The Elephant Nature Park is one of the only non-profit organizations that rescues and rehabilitates elephants. They have created a safe haven that allows the elephants to roam free and they are only trained with positive reinforcement – food. Any park that lets you ride the elephants is supporting a bad cause. It is extremely unfortunate that most of society has no idea what elephants have to go through before they are able to be ridden.
In Asia, baby elephants are taken from their mothers and then trained for these tourism companies. This process is called “phajaan” which is a term that means to crush the elephants spirit so they will listen to every command. This “training” includes putting the elephant into a tiny cage, tied up by chains and ropes, with no food or water for days while being tortured with spears and whips until their spirits are broken – they essentially give up on life. Because elephants are so intelligent – this can lead the elephants to become mentally unstable and develop severe depression to the point that they try to kill themselves by stepping on their own trunks. Once the elephant completes “phajaan” they are sold to illegal logging companies and tourism companies which use them for elephant rides, live painting sessions and circuses. That viral video you saw of the elephants painting – there is someone with a nail in their ear forcing them to paint. The elephants that give rides around Angkor Wat – they use nails there too to control them.
The Elephant Nature Park is a much more intimate and real experience rather than riding an elephant which actually really hurts their backs despite their large size. It only costs $28,000 to save an elephant from tourism boards and logging companies.
I have chosen the Elephant Nature Park as my first organization to donate a percentage of profits to from my new silk scarves line AM CLUB. I created 4 elephant designs with artist Bruna Siquiera from Brazil which you can see below and shop here.
Let’s make a difference.