Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand Treats Animals with Respect

in Thailand

Chiang Mai is the largest city in Northern Thailand, so it’s hard to believe that once this mountainous location was only accessible by river or elephants.

Today transport’s a lot easier. All the major domestic airlines, including Thai Airways and Air Asia, fly between Bangkok and Chiang Mai several times each day. Buses and trains also travel from the capital regularly. Yet the elephants’ importance to the area, known as the Rose of the North, remains.

Since their services are no longer required for transport, the elephants of Chiang Mai lead a pampered existence at the Elephant Nature Park. Nestled around 60 kilometers from the city center, the park provides a sanctuary for these magnificent creatures.

The park is the brainchild of Sangduen Chailert. Her special bond with elephants began when her grandfather, a traditional Thai healer, received a baby elephant from a grateful patient. Sangduen became firm friends with the latest member of the family and the rest, as they say, is history. After graduating from Chiang Mai University she moved into the elephant tourism. There she discovered the abuse and neglect the animals suffered once they became useless to trekking firms. She was determined to develop a place where elephants would be loved throughout their days. When the Elephant Nature Park opened its doors in 1995, that dream became a reality.

elephantThe park’s work is vital in a modern Thailand where just 2000 elephants live in the wild. The park is home to more than 30 rescue elephants, ranging in age from infants to the elderly and abused. It is open to day visitors and overnight guests, who can watch the animals grazing, playing, and communicating as they do in the wild. There are no circus tricks or elephant rides here. Instead tourists enjoy a less artificial experience, bathing the animals and feeding them treats.

One-day visits to the park cost $125 for adults and $75 for children, including transfers from Chiang Mai. For a reduced rate, you can enjoy a seven-, 14-, or 28-day volunteer experience. Around $70 a day buys you daily contact with the elephants and all meals. The park is not-for-profit, so all money raised directly supports the elephants and their upkeep.

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