Gosh! The first post. Make it count! Well my names Lucy as you may have already guessed. I’m 25 years old, a qualified Veterinary Nurse (not a vet!- think human nurse but for animals). I have 2 dogs (german shepherd, border collie/spaniel cross) and a 3-legged cat (a stray brought into work following an argument with a car resulting in the amputation of one of her legs).
I love my job and cannot imagine doing anything else. In fact, my career has probably inspired me to travel, to see the world and all its inhabitants (human and animal). 1 week ago, I booked a trip to Thailand. My destination is Chiang Mai and more importantly, the Elephant Nature Park approx 60km outside of Chiang Mai.
Obviously, animal welfare is a huge priority of mine and making sure that I am a responsible traveler is important to me. Many people have “bucket list”, myself included, and top entries may often include “ride an elephant”. However, I think that if they knew the awful process by which elephants are “trained” for them to experience this, they might erase this dream.
The process is called “the crush” or Phajaan. It involves separating a baby elephant from its mother in the wild and confining it to a hole no bigger then itself for days on end, starved, dehydrated and beaten into submission to the point it no longer recognizes its mother and fears human kind completely. They are often fostered onto captive elephants in so called “conservation centers” where they are forced to dance, paint and give rides to tourists. Unfortunately, there are so many places that say they are rescue centers but actually are contributing to the illegal sale and abuse of these beautiful creatures.
Its a hugely complicated topic (elephants used to be used for logging until it was abolished in Thailand, so following this ban, the elephants had nowhere to go and their owners had no source of income. Tourism was the next logical step for them, so abolishing one cruel trade has ultimately lead to another). I would advise that any tourist does their research before they make a commitment they might not be able to change.
Elephant Nature Park is something different. Its a safe haven for abused and sick elephants to wander free and live without chains. There are no rides or silly gimmicks, just freedom. The park opens its door for volunteers to help feed and bath the elephants and walk with them instead of on them. I cannot wait for my weeks worth of volunteering, which according to previous volunteers is no easy feat.
November cannot come fast enough!