ELEPHANT LIFE IN THAILAND
As we see a lot of discussions between people arguing about going or not to see domestic elephants we would like to explain again what happens here in Thailand.
Long time ago elephants were used to work for logging in the jungle to pull big trunk of teak wood or were used in farms to carry big bags of rice or whatever the farmers grew.
In 1989 the government introduced a ban to stop this work.
The elephants owners were left without a solution to work, without money to feed their families and take care of their elephants.
With the tourism growing fast they found out that a lot of people visiting the kingdom were interested to see elephants and so the first elephant camps opened, allowing the owners to get a salary again.
The riding was the main option as the camps were showing how the mahouts worked with their elephants before.
It became popular and everyone wanted to ride an elephant.
In the last few years, after some campaigns that showed how elephants were trained, a lot of people decided to stop going in these camps.
The majority of the riding camps are now closing.
The problem in Thailand is that there is not enough jungle left to release the domestic elephants. Deforestation and constructions destroyed their habitat and the small amount of wild elephants are already struggling to find food. The consequences is that they are crossing the limits where they are protected to the plantations, causing a big conflict with farmers.
The main chance for the domestic elephants is to find a good place where people can take care of them. That's why the "sanctuaries" opened. Some of them are new places and some others are former riding camps converted.
These places need a lot of money to support the food, healthcare and facilities for the elephants.
An elephant has to eat at least 10% of his body weight to be healthy so it's about 250/300 kilos (550/660 pounds) per day for an adult.
At the moment our visitors can feed them, follow them to the jungle and to the river where they can observe them.
However we know that the best would be to just come and watch them from a distance, without interact with them and hopefully we will be able to do it one day. This will takes time and money to organize the space differently.
We have so many ideas to improve their life but we lack of money.
The only concern we have now is the well being of the elephants.
If you don't want to come and meet them you are welcome to help by making some donations.
At Chi Jungle Man, our project is to raise enough money to be able to buy a sufficient land in the jungle with direct access to a river to bring our elephants back to their natural habitat. We also want to limit the interaction with them to give them back a semblance of wild life. We are convinced that all together, with more help, more support and more ideas we can evolve to a bigger, wilder place with enough food and good healthcare for our elephant family. We love them so much.
All together we can make a difference for all the elephants in Thailand.
Come to meet our Elephant family in an ethical way.
Chi and the owner of the Elephant refuge are working together to help Elephants to start a new life after getting out of riding camps, working in farms and logging. They are taking care of them in a safe and loving place, always thinking about new ideas to improve their comfort.
At the moment, we have 9 Elephants.
The adults were working before in riding camps, farm work and logging. The young Elephants were born here and are enjoying their life, playing together.
All our Elephants are coming from different areas in Thailand: Mae Hong Son, Mae Sariang, Kanchanaburi and they arrived more than a decade ago in Mae Wang. They are now bonding as a family, forming a herd.
For the well being of our Elephants, we will not bring more than 12 people a day.
You can take part in their daily life by helping us to feed them with sugar cane, bananas, corn, grass or pumpkins. Elephants spend 12 to 18 hours eating per day, and they can eat up to 300 kilos of vegetation and drink up to 200 liters of water! This is one of the main tasks of the mahouts who need to feed their Elephant all day and night, as they only sleep around 4 hours.
You will join some of them for a morning walk in the jungle around. During that time, they can find other kinds of food such as bamboo, different tree leaves, bark or even banana trees. They also like this moment to scratch on trees or with a stick and roll in the dirt. They also communicate a lot while free and are very attentive to any sound. It’s a really good time to learn about the Elephant behavior in the wild.
You can walk side by side with these giants to the river where they love to bathe, cool down their body, wash out mud or simply relax and play.
If you stay a few days with us, you can watch the Elephants at night and do some other activities to help at the refuge such as gardening, planting, cleaning, building facilities or taking care of our many dogs.
MAHOUTS: During your time with the Elephants, you will meet the mahouts (Elephant caretakers). They all are from the Karen hill tribe, like Chi. Karen people work with Elephants for generations. They understand each other. The mahouts use a specific language to talk to the Elephants. Try to find the meaning of each word by looking at the Elephant behavior! Each Elephant has his own mahout. When there is a baby, the mahout takes care of the mother and her baby. Our mahouts are a bit shy. Some of them only speak Karen language, some also speak Thai, and a few speak some English. Don't forget it's always possible to communicate with a smile! :)
Spend time with elephants requires to know and follow some rules.
1st : THE MAHOUTS : You have to understand that the mahouts spend their life with the elephants, 24h/24h, 7 days a week, days and nights. They don't take vacations.
One mahout takes care of one elephant. If there is a baby the mahout takes care of the mum and her baby.
That's how they can create a real bond with their elephant, know their personality and reactions.
ALWAYS listen to the guide or the mahouts.Even if the mahouts doesn't speak English :- If they show you to stay away from an elephant : stay away.- If they show you to take another way : take the other way.
2nd : THE ELEPHANTS : Because they are living together for years now, our elephants have formed a herd and the mahouts know them all pretty well.
We are lucky to have a lovely male, Papa Joe, living in harmony with the females and the babies.
There is however an exception when he's on heat. As nice and sweet as he is in his every day life, only his mahout can really take care of him in rutting season. He can become dangerous for any human or elephant and we have to keep him away. In the wild, the males always leave the group when they become adult and only come back to mate.
We are lucky to have wonderful elephants and you have the chance to meet them.
But be aware that they are still wild animals and no pets, and that they have the same feelings as humans and each one his own personality.
The adults are the more calm.
The babies were born here and listen most of the time the mahouts but they like to play and don't know their strength.
3rd : VISITORS : Don't try anything stupid with the elephants.
Don't tease them with food.
Be quiet and calm in their presence.
Talk to them nicely.
We never had any problem and we want to keep it this way.
So please follow the rules and enjoy your time with them.