Trip Start Sep 05, 2011
Trip End Nov 23, 2011

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Friday, September 23, 2011

Hi everyone.

First of all we would just like to say that we know you will have all heard the sad news by now, thank you for the kind emails/messages they have really helped us. It's still too soon for us to talk about it so we won’t say too much more here on the blog. We all love Bella and she will be missed hugely but will always be in our thoughts.

Yesterday we went to a place called 'Elephants World’ which was about a 45 minute drive from our guesthouse. It was started about three years ago by a Thai vet and gives a home to elephants who have spent their lives working either on the streets of Thai cities or logging in the jungle. All of the elephants had been mistreated in some way, and this was evident from the many scars and wounds covering them which was distressing to see. However, the centre provided medical care as well as a natural environment for them to live out the rest of their lives without having to work again. The ethos of the place was ‘We work for the elephants, the elephants do not work for us’.

 It wasn’t at all ‘touristy’ and they insist upon every volunteer getting fully involved in the daily activities which included preparing the food, collecting banana trees from a nearby banana forest, feeding the elephants and finally bathing them in the river. We only spent the day there, but many people go and volunteer for weeks at a time, there was a Dutch girl there who had been volunteering for the last three weeks. It reminded me a lot of Africa (except with elephants rather than horses!).

Our guide for the day was a guy called Aek who had only been there for about three weeks after working on a ship. He was very friendly and told us a lot about the elephants stories and how they had come to be with them at the centre. One slightly sad aspect of the work that they do concerns the elephants who are still working in cities, jungles etc. If an elephant is found in a city by the police the owner and elephant are sent to the centre for one month where they are taught about the correct way to look after and feed the animal. However, once this month is up the elephant has to leave (in fact a young male left whilst we were there). After this has happened they often go back to work in a different city because if they get caught in  same city twice the owner will be arrested and sent to prison for a short time but the elephant would then be passed into the care of the team at Elephant’s world.

It made us very sad to think of an elephant arriving at elephants world and getting to experience a somewhat natural way of living, and then being sent back to working on the noisy smelly streets of a city again. In an ideal world the centre would be able to buy the elephant from the owner, but with the average cost being about 800,000 baht (20,000 GBP) that would be impossible. We asked the lady who managed the centre what the Thai government did to help, her answer: "They do absolutely nothing."

Obviously very frustrating for everyone at the centre but it is still just starting out as a project and we get the feeling it will continue to grow and help more and more of these poor animals. The population of elephants in the wild nearby the centre has actually increased over the past couple of years which is very promising news. That combined with the fact the owner appears regularly on Thai TV promoting the work they do, works with schools on education programmes etc and is generally very popular in Thailand makes the future of the centre very bright indeed!

Quick elephant fact neither of us knew – they have very strong necks/shoulders, but weak backs that can only comfortably carry a maximum of 100kg. Something to think about next time you see an elephant carrying a massive chair with two fat tourists on its back walking around!

They really are amazing, intelligent creatures and we were both quite moved by the experience which we will tell you all about in detail when we see you.

Lots of love

Anna and Sam xxxx
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