"As a child, I would spin my globe with my eyes shut, then I'd touch it to stop the spinning, open my eyes and wherever my finger landed I said to myself that I would go there." -Barb Hautanen
Tag Archives: elephant nature park (ENP)
They were an anxious lot, and there was nowhere to go but straight into their ranks. Would we be greeted as friend or foe? Welcomed warmly or despised? I took a deep breath and, hoping for the best, opened the truck door and stepped out. That's when the mob surged forward.
There's been a baby boom at Elephant Nature Park in the past year and you'd be hard pressed to come up with anything cuter than a baby elephant - except maybe three baby elephants!
As I learned during our time at Elephant Nature Park and Boon Lott's Elephant Sanctuary, to understand elephants you have to move at their pace and within their framework of time. Busy yourself at the blurred speed of humankind and you'll miss much of the beautiful gestures and language these gentle giants use.
Of all the elephants at Elephant Nature Park with their multitude of injuries - broken legs, broken backs, dislocated hips, missing limbs from landmines - I don't know why Medo has lodged herself so deeply in my heart. But she has. And every morning during our stay I'd anxiously wait for her to appear.
Lek Chailert has earned global respect for her tireless work rescuing abused elephants and providing them with a life free of abuse. She's collaborated on laws that would provide them protections, has won international awards, and been featured in articles and documentaries seen around the world. Despite the accolades, in her own country she's been persecuted, threatened, ridiculed, raided, disowned by her own family, and even forced to go into exile for a period of time. But she has never given up fighting for her beliefs.
At quarter past six every morning I would make my way to Elephant Nature Park's main complex for a coffee. It was my favorite time of day here. Quiet and still dark, the hustle and bustle of the day's activities had yet to begin, in the distance the silhouettes of the elephants slowly moving towards the river for a morning drink.
Whether used in the illegal logging trade or in tourist camps for rides and other "entertainment," unless you're lucky enough to come across elephants in the wild while visiting Asia every elephant you encounter will have been both literally and figuratively broken in a process called phajaan.
I'm just about to climb over the top of the gate and into the elephant barn to join Lek Chailert as she softly sings lullabies to Faa Mai and the other elephants in the barn, when Kim loudly shouts my name in a panicked voice. I look down towards the ground just in time to see my backpack – filled with my camera, lenses, audio recording gear, and travel notebooks – get whisked away into the darkness by an errant elephant trunk.
In just one short week we will finally be on our way to Thailand. This trip is all about elephants, and we'll be spending our time volunteering at two different sanctuaries where captive elephants rescued from lives filled with hard labor and mental and physical abuse have an opportunity to spend their days in as natural a state as possible.