Written Nov 2015
My First Time With Elephants
The first time I laid eyes on an elephant was in a zoo; she was African but miles away from her home. I was about 8. She was a beautifully magnificent animal. She stood lifelessly staring at the path that lead up to her enclosure. Green paint marks all down her trunk from where she rubbed her face against the metal bars that surrounded her. Her eyes cloudy, her ears were dead still and stuck out aggressively listening to everything. As amazing as she looked, I felt like she lacked something, something important, she wasn’t like the elephants I’d seen on Attenborough’s documentaries.
Volunteering with Elephants in Thailand
Years later I decided to take part in an elephant conservation project, perhaps my past experience in the zoo played a part in this. I spent hours researching projects online and eventually I chose to do a 6 month internship in Thailand. On the 2nd April 2014 I flew to Thailand to experience the best days of my life.
Completely culture shocked at first, I soon came round to the peaceful life that the Karen Hill-tribe villagers led. Huay Pakood was a mountainous area full of beauty and serenity. I truly found myself and my passion in this village… and that is no word of a lie.
I remember my first experience with an elephant in it’s natural habitat: it was a beautiful day and we had walked hours in the blazing heat up, what seemed like, a vertical mountain. It was the first hike I ever did and from memory, the hardest. When we got closer we could hear were the cow bells loosely hung around the elephant’s necks; this helped the mahouts locate their whereabouts. There she stood, in all her glory, ‘Kham Suk’, she was HUGE but not too wrinkly for an oldie! The atmosphere felt positive, I felt buzzing. Khum Suk, never far from her daughter Kha Moon, stood importantly surrounded by trees, ears flapping, tail swaying, foraging, rumbling. I soon came to learn these were all signs of a happy elephant.
I learnt so much on this project, it was an adventure that changed my views, feelings and path. After experiencing living side by side these gentle giants in the forest, I feel a responsibility to change the way of life for the remaining captive elephants. Our website Thailandelephants.org is becoming successful in highlighting the threats tourists have on elephants and by encouraging people to visit ethical elephant venues it will hopefully encourage the least ethical camps to compete and improve their welfare standards.
Elephants NEED OUR HELP. Through raising awareness we can make a dramatic change in the shift of ethical elephant venues. WE can ALL make a difference….Via social media, attending protests, boycotting unethical animal venues and by spreading the word!
In April 2016 I shall be heading out on my next adventure to volunteer on a reserve in South Africa that dedicate huge conservation efforts to protecting their rhino’s. I can’t wait to be out in the plains of SA observing elephants, rhino’s and hundreds of other animals living the most natural life they can lead. Why would you want it any other way?
Every animal deserves the best quality of life, don’t they? Be it pig, dog, human or elephant.