Up Close and Ethical

It’s a case of Free Nellie at this retirement refuge for elephants rescued from tourism and logging industries, where visitors now spend memorable times with these gentle giants

There’s something infinitely satisfying about interacting with happy, contented animals, especially when their previous lives have been anything but euphoric. At the recently-opened Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, the role of elephants in entertaining and educating tourists has been recast in a groundbreaking ethical mould. The four majestic residents here now have free, natural lives – and visitors can enjoy the privilege of sharing those lives right up close in their home environment. It’s all a world away from being old, sick and overworked – shackled in chains to pull heavy logs, begging for food, or forced to give endless uncomfortable rides for tourists.

Now, instead of riding them or watching them perform tricks, tourists observe and learn as these happy elephants go about their days – freely roaming the jungle, foraging, bathing in lagoons, covering themselves in thick mud to cool down, and simply enjoying being elephants. They can get up close to feed them watermelons, bananas, and pineapples, and follow their ponderous, enormous steps into the forest for a mid morning stroll amidst nature. Located literally off the beaten track – the only access is by a dirt road – and with virtually no fencing in sight, Phuket  Elephant Sanctuary’s land is part natural rainforest and part rubber plantation, an ideal stomping ground for elephants. At the heart of the Sanctuary is the Tree Top Reception & Observation Platform, where visitors take in panoramic views of the landscape and surrounding mountains while sitting back to watch the elephants wander. Up here, they learn from the Sanctuary’s team of experts about the plight of working elephants, their rescues, and how these lucky Elephants are being rehabilitated into forest life before descending to experience it all – at first-hand and hands-on.

_______________

The elephants are being rehabilitated into forest life in a natural, care free environment

_______________

_______________

The Rescued Residents

_______________

Madee – New Beginnings in Thai – was the Sanctuary’s first rescued elephant. Sixty years old and the epitome of a gentle giant, she’s calm, wise, gentle and protective. Madee spent most of her life in Narathiwat province near the Malaysian border working in the logging industry. In 2009, she was sold and relocated to Phuket – a saddle was put on her back and she began giving rides to tourists.

Madee – New Beginnings in Thai – was the Sanctuary’s first rescued elephant. Sixty years old and the epitome of a gentle giant, she’s calm, wise, gentle and protective. Madee spent most of her life in Narathiwat province near the Malaysian border working in the logging industry. In 2009, she was sold and relocated to Phuket – a saddle was put on her back and she began giving rides to tourists.

Kannika – Flower in Thai – has blossomed into her new life at the Sanctuary. She’s 32 years old and has lived in Phuket since she was 10. She was transported from Surin province in Northeast Thailand to Phuket where she was put to work as a begging elephant along the beaches. In 2007, a saddle was put on her back and she gave rides to holiday makers.

Kannika – Flower in Thai – has blossomed into her new life at the Sanctuary. She’s 32 years old and has lived in Phuket since she was 10. She was transported from Surin province in Northeast Thailand to Phuket where she was put to work as a begging elephant along the beaches. In 2007, a saddle was put on her back and she gave rides to holiday makers.

Gaew Ta,  affectionately known as Darling, is a particularly troubled elephant in her early 50s, Darling  had been giving rides in Phuket for two years, and before that worked in the logging industry in Nakhon Si Thammarat province in southern Thailand. Blind in both eyes, she’s been slow to adjust to Sanctuary life but has a dedicated mahout to guide her. On arrival, she had cigarette burns on her body and a deep wound on her forehead, but her confidence has grown day by day.

Gaew Ta,  affectionately known as Darling, is a particularly troubled elephant in her early 50s, Darling  had been giving rides in Phuket for two years, and before that worked in the logging industry in Nakhon Si Thammarat province in southern Thailand. Blind in both eyes, she’s been slow to adjust to Sanctuary life but has a dedicated mahout to guide her. On arrival, she had cigarette burns on her body and a deep wound on her forehead, but her confidence has grown day by day.

Dok Gaew was giving rides to tourists until she simply couldn’t walk another step. The first attempt by the Sanctuary team to transport her was cancelled, because she had a deeply infected wound that had been left untreated, making her too weak to move or be moved. After treatment, she was able to be moved and despite initially being frail and injured, she’s now settled in well to her new life.

Dok Gaew was giving rides to tourists until she simply couldn’t walk another step. The first attempt by the Sanctuary team to transport her was cancelled, because she had a deeply infected wound that had been left untreated, making her too weak to move or be moved. After treatment, she was able to be moved and despite initially being frail and injured, she’s now settled in well to her new life.

These four elephants may have arrived at the Sanctuary broken in body, spirit and soul, but in this forever home they are finally finding peace and happiness as part of a sustainable, ethical and compassionate approach to elephant tourism. Phuket Elephant Sanctuary accepts donations from supporters worldwide. As a non-profit organisation, the Sanctuary relies on donations to give the rescued elephants a happy and healthy life – the funding helps provide them with nutritious food, veterinary care, shelter and enrichment.

phuketelephantsanctuary.org

_______________

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share This

Share this post with your friends!