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Journals from Jan Term 2014 - NURS 398 Traditional and Modern Healthcare in SE Asia

2013-01-22 ELEPHANTS!!!

 Day 14

It is finally here. The day that all of us have been waiting for!
This morning we were picked up around 8 in the usual vans and taken through Chiang Mai to the Elephant Nature Park. This park was established to rescue domesticated elephants from poor working conditions and let them Live freely and without being forced to work. Although the park was in Chiang Mai it took us a good hour to get there because the city is so vast.
Our first glimpse of the park from the road was a valley of greenery surrounded by rolling hills and tropical forests. In the valley, small groups of elephants were roaming freely. It looked like a sanctuary. Even from the road.
When we finally arrived and clambered out of the vans, we went to meet a few of the elephants. The elephants have been domesticated during their earlier lives, but we still had to be careful around them. Each elephant had their own mahout that needed to be with the elephant before we were allowed to approach. A mahout is an elephant handler. These handlers keep the elephants from getting into mischief or danger by bribing them with snacks. bribery os better than the former methods that were used on them. The elephants can form pretty strong attachments to the mahouts and are fun to watch human and elephant interact. 
With the mahout around we were able to meet and feed the elephants fruits. Instantly we saw the impact of poor treatment of these grand creatures. The first female we met had broken an ankle from a logging accident and then suffered from a broken pelvic due to forced breeding before being rescued. Now her body appears twisted compared to the other elephants and she walks with a heavy limp. Yet, she is happy now and, reportedly, not in pain. It is so heart warming to know she can live peacefully now.
We then got to see the 3 month old elephant. He was so cute and fluffy! Then we fed more snacks to more elephants. After lunch we watched a documentary about elephants in Thailand and the traditional ordeal the elephants underwent to be broken. It was terrible. We then went to the river to bath the elephants.
Bathing the elephants was so much fun. We went into the river with them and just threw bucket after bucket on their backs.  Later we watched the baby family go to the river to splash around and bath. It was great to see the energy and personalities if each elephant as they played in the water.
Once the bathing was over we moved into our cabins for the night. Free time followed. Everyone found some way to preoccupy themselves. After dinner everyone just relaxed with card games, pictures, and good conversation. 
Loving life,

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