There are many things that I love about Thailand, or what I’ve seen of it so far, but one thing I do find difficult about being here is the way some animals are treated. Where animals are concerned, the culture here is a world away from that of the UK and seeing hungry, flea-ridden, cats and dogs wandering the streets is completely the norm.
Back in April I spent a month volunteering at the Lanta Animal Welfare Centre, set up by a lady called Juni who has dedicated her life to helping the animals of Koh Lanta, many of which have been abandoned and abused. While I was there, I also became aware of several elephant treks being advertised and without knowing exactly why, I knew that I wasn’t comfortable with the thought of riding an elephant.
Today, I spent the day at an elephant rescue and rehabilitation centre, to the North of Chiang Mai called Elephant Nature Park. We spent the day feeding, bathing and learning all about these wonderful creatures including hearing about the many horrors that they, and many others like them, have endured so that they can be used to make money in the tourist industry.
Before elephants can work with tourists, they must be ‘domesticated’ and this is done through a process called ‘Phajaan’ which in theory is the process of separating the elephant’s sprit from its body in order that the animal might be tamed but in practice is a process of crushing the animals spirit through relentless and enduring violence and abuse.
The 36 elephants at Elephant Nature Park have all been rescued by an incredible woman called Lek (meaning small in Thai), who over time has built the park into something she lovingly refers to as elephant heaven and having spent the day there today, I can totally see why.
Witnessing the cruelty that many animals suffer in Thailand has stretched my tolerance to its limits but what I witnessed today at this beautiful sanctuary renewed my faith in human kind. Seeing Lek’s dedication to the plight of Thailand’s elephants and having been party to what Juni has built for the cats and dogs of Koh Lanta has reminded me that we are each put on this earth with a purpose to fulfil and what can be achieved when someone lives true to that purpose is truly awe-inspiring.
If you want to show your support for these two wonderful charities, please do share the post and if you can spare any money please do donate. Having spent time at both these centres, I can vouch for the wonderful difference they make to the lives of these animals.