The week I spent at ENP was THE most wonderful and rewarding experience of my life. It was also extremely hard, mentally. My eyes were opened to the cruelty and suffering the Asian elephant undergoes, merely for the sake of tourism. I was shown footage of baby elephants undergoing the appalling process of Phajaan, being beaten and scared into obeying the commands of the Mahout.
No matter where you go in the world, if you see an elephant amongst people at a circus, street begging, giving rides, doing tricks, it has undergone the process of Phajaan. It has had it’s will crushed. The elephant has been torn away from it’s family, tortured, shackled and starved. The only way elephants obey is if they are terrified of the pain they will receive from their Mahout.
Elephant Nature Park was founded by Lek Chailert, a worldwide ambassador who fights against animal cruelty. Lek was born into a trekking family, meaning her family domesticated elephants and used them for trekking long before she was born. On seeing the impact that this had on the elephants lives and how cruelly they were treated, Lek rebelled against her families wishes and decided that she wanted to spend her life helping to rescue the elephants from all manner of cruelty caused by humans.
ENP has a plethora of projects on the go, related to elephants, dogs and soon cats too. You can find all of these projects on their website here https://www.elephantnaturepark.org/. There are many projects involving the elephants, from 1 day visits to a whole week volunteering with them. If you choose to spend a week there, please know that although the tasks can be quite gruelling, the sense of achievement and knowledge that you are helping improve the lives of the elephants far outweighs any hard work you have to do.
Many people, including myself found it very hard to leave this place. To see the elephants enjoying their lives and living as naturally as possible, despite everything they have been through, is a life changing experience.
The work of ENP
What ENP does is take care of the elephants who have already had this traumatic life. They rescue them from the places where they receive this horrific treatment and take care of them in a sanctuary. They give them as much freedom as a ‘domestic’ elephant can have.
Because of the nature of their previous treatment, they are left with terrible afflictions, mental and physical. They would no longer survive in the wild. ENP provides a caring and nurturing environment where they can form families again and actually BE an elephant. Not this warped, subservient version that humans have forced onto them.
In addition to this ENP strives to educate the people of Southeast Asia about the effect they are having on the elephants. They visit countless riding camps and ask them to change their brutal ways. One of the problems they face is that a particular business may have been in the family for generations and they have grown up knowing no other way to make money to survive. ENP will show them how they can still make a profit without treating elephants inhumanely.
Rather than writing down every task and experience like a story, I want to show you in pictures so you can get an image of the place and the amazing work they do there.