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The Elephant Sanctuary

Northern Thailand
Justine Lewis

THE SANCTUARY The Elephant Nature Park is a rescue centre in the hills of Northern Thailand that provides sanctuary to mistreated elephants. The park rests in a natural valley, carved by the flowing river and surrounded by forested mountains, to encourage the rescued elephants to live naturally and roam in their self-chosen family groups, a rare find in this developing and opportunistic country.
THE WEARY The rescued elephants have been liberated from all around Thailand: many from street begging and tourism, where they have been beaten into submission to perform unnatural acts; and others from illegal logging camps, where they have been overworked and abused. The elephants arrive with scars that may never heal, both physical and mental, and many are now disabled, orphaned, blind or maimed.
THE VOICE FOR THE ELEPHANTS The Park’s founder, Lek, has devoted her life to the rescue and conservation of the Asian Elephant. On World Animal Day, 2013, the International March for Elephants took place across the world to protest the illegal ivory trade, and Lek was invited to Bangkok to present signed petitions of local and international support to the Thai Minister of Natural Resources, with the controversial campaign attracting much media attention.
THE TIRELESS VOLUNTEERS: The Park is run by both permanent, local staff and international volunteers who carry out tasks such as planting trees to provide grazing vegetation, harvesting crops, preparing food and medicine for the elephants, cleaning the shelter areas, and undertaking maintenance of the Park. The work is labour intensive and can require long hours, however the rewards are gratifying as you experience the serenity of the Park and see the difference it has made to lives of the elephants here.
THE PROTECTED YOUNG (aka the rebellious teenager): A number of young elephants have now been born at the Park, protected from and unaware of the abuse and mistreatment their parents were subjected to. Here, the rebellious teenager has become naturally inquisitive, and wandered off towards the humans, but the wise matriarch of the herd is quick to respond, calling him back and summoning the baby and nanny away from their river bath time to surround and protect him.

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