Chiang Mai, Thailand is plagued by organizations claiming that they are helping rescue elephants. Many even go as far to say that they are a rehabilitation center and help the Asian Elephant re-enter nature. How does one decide which organization to volunteer with the most or to even go so far as to give financially to? It can be tough, as the number of volunteer organizations grow to tell if you are really making a difference in the lives of the Asian
The Elephant Nature Park (www.elephantnaturepark.org) is the exception. This “park” a wonderful organization located in Northern Thailand, 60 miles north of Chiang Mai. It is a place that accepts volunteers on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. A Thai woman, Sangduen “Lek” Chailert, started this organization in the early 1990’s because she saw that these beautiful and large animals were being grossly mistreated since legal logging in Thailand has gone by the wayside. Elephants were being starved because their owners couldn’t provide enough food for these incredible creatures. Elephants were being put to work in shows in the major cities, often times walking around amidst traffic and trash, eating whatever their owners could toss their way. This is was no way for these magnificent animals to live.
Lek founded The Elephant Nature park to provide sanctuary for elephants in Thailand and in neighboring countries. Now, the park has expanded to include wildland and deforestation protection, cultural preservation of the local community so that the surrounding villages can live sustainably, and public elephant and nature education to park visitors and volunteers.
Daily visitors to the park can learn about the elephant and ways in which they can help educate the world and spread the word about the plight of the Asian Elephant. Volunteers can work as little as a week and upwards of a month or two. As a volunteer you work side-by-side the elephant, cleaning and preparing food, bathing the elephant, picking up their excrement, and maintaining the elephant’s facilities and park.
Volunteers at the Park will not be disappointed with their experience as this park does provide real aid to the Asian Elephant. The Elephant Nature Park is not a rehabilitation center with the hopes of releasing the animals into the wild, but a sanctuary where these majestic animals can live out their lives in protection from poaching, deforestation and working in illegal logging camps. The Elephant Nature Park hopes that one day the Asian elephant’s numbers will rise and can officially be removed from the endangered list and with public education and volunteerism, it is the only way for this to happen.