We’ve written before about the complex issue of elephants in Thailand and highlighted a number of ethical elephant facilities that tourists can visit. One of those is Elephant Nature Park.
Established in Chiang Mai in the 1990s, Elephant Nature Park (ENP) is a sanctuary and rescue centre for dozens of distressed elephants from across Thailand. The park is a bona fide sanctuary for elephants and other animals. Founded by a Thai woman, Saengduean ‘Lek’ Chailert, both the park and its charismatic founder have won international acclaim for their work.
In 2022, the work of Elephant Nature Park was recognised once more in the Responsible Thailand Awards with ENP winning the coveted Animal Welfare Award. Elephant Nature Park is not only a sanctuary for the elephants, but also for the rescued cats, dogs and buffaloes who have been welcomed to the park.
Meet the herd
Each of the elephants at ENP have their own story. Elephants like Kamu, who arrived at the sanctuary in Chiang Mai towards the end of 2021. This female elephant previously worked in the logging industry before being taken to a tourist elephant camp where riding was allowed. The Covid-19 pandemic changed everything for Kamu and her owner. With Kamu’s owner no longer able to take care of her, he turned to Elephant Nature Park for help.
Like all the elephants at ENP, Kamu is no longer forced to work. Instead, she can live out her days in dignity in north Thailand. Read more about Kamu and the other elephants at ENP here.
Responsible tourism at Elephant Nature Park
Responsible tourism is a multifaceted subject. When it comes to elephant sanctuaries, there is so much to consider. The welfare of the elephants and their mahouts are crucial, but the needs of the local community and the environment must be respected too. And this is something that Elephant Nature Park does so well and earned praise from the judges of the Responsible Thailand Awards. Despite the problems created by the Covid pandemic, ENP have maintained their support for their elephants and also the mahouts and the local community.
Elephant Nature Park has established the ‘Jumbo Express’, a field clinic for elephants. In addition to the on-site vets at ENP, a team of volunteers travels to some of the remotest hill tribe villages in the north of Thailand to administer emergency health care to elephants and other animals in need.
Supporting the local community
Wherever possible, ENP purchases agricultural products locally. The park’s elephant food bank scheme and farm to herd initiatives also help local farmers. In addition, the park creates work opportunities for people from the area with park managers recruited from the nearby villages. This all helps to preserve the cultural integrity of the local community.
Helping the environment
An ongoing tree planting initiative is helping to restore and protect the rainforest. With dozens of acres of the mountainside being planted each year, the rainforest will be a boon for the local ecosystem benefiting plants and wildlife.
Educating visitors is a key element of ENP’s work. Whether it is overseas tourists or Thai school children, highlighting the plight of the endangered local species is important. Getting that message across in an entertaining, but educational way is a balancing act that ENP achieves through various multi-media platforms and workshops.
Visit Elephant Nature Park
Elephant Nature Park is located around 35 miles north of Chiang Mai city in the Mae Taeng district of Chiang Mai province. If you book a visit to ENP, round-trip transfers are included in the price.
If you would like to visit Elephant Nature Park, there are a number of different options including single day or overnight visits. There is also the opportunity for an extended stay as part of the volunteer program.
Booking in advance is recommended especially during the high season months (November-February). Available dates can be checked on the ENP website. For more details on Elephant Nature Park, visit their website or social media channels:
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