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Elephant Visit in Chiang Mai

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May 11th, 2013, 08:51 PM
  #1
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Elephant Visit in Chiang Mai

I will be visiting Chiang Mai later this year, for the first time in 15 years. I am very keen to see an elephant "camp" & there are so many more than my previous visit. Almost all the places stress that they are for conservation, rehabilitation etc & that they do not have soccer ball games, elephant art. etc. I am now thoroughly confused- do Fodorites have recommendations for specific elephant camps? I am more interested in the rehabilitation & conservation aspects than manufactured play. Unfortunately the trip will be a day only & I will be unable to stay overnight. Thanks in advance
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May 11th, 2013, 09:04 PM
  #2
 
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There's one in Lampang which is about an hour's drive from Chiang Mai which is well regarded.

http://www.thailandelephant.org/en/
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May 12th, 2013, 05:55 AM
  #3
 
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Another one to consider http://www.elephantnaturepark.org/tour/tour_1d.htm
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May 12th, 2013, 07:28 AM
  #4
 
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Thanks for asking this - I'm interested in this, too.
Paule
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May 12th, 2013, 08:16 AM
  #5
 
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We had the same concerns and visited Thai Elephant Home and were very pleased. http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractio...hiang_Mai.html
In fact, our only negative thought was that the pants they provide were a little to flimsy (DH's ripped and they ran a replacement) and it looks as though they have up-graded their clothing.
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May 12th, 2013, 09:39 AM
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Wow, this sounds like a great idea. Pants? Curious about why you would need special pants.
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May 12th, 2013, 04:03 PM
  #7
 
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The elephants skin is rough and has sharpish, firm hairs. From a TA review, "You will ride the elephants bareback, not on a chair. This is healthier for the elephants because it reduces the stress on their back--scarring from chairs is visible on the elephants at other camps."
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May 13th, 2013, 05:14 AM
  #8
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Thanks to all who have replied- the info is very useful & narrows down my options when in Chiang Mai. So many elephants, so little time...
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May 13th, 2013, 01:32 PM
  #9
 
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Virginia, would you be willing to talk to me offline about the elephant home? If so, could you email me at [email protected]?
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May 19th, 2013, 07:34 PM
  #10
 
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Make certain that the elephants you're riding haven't been put through the ritual torture that most juvenile eles are put through before they're ridden or perform for tourists. Ask too whether or not their mahouts use a cruel bullhook to control them, or kinder means. Elephant Nature Park is one place I can vouch for.
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May 20th, 2013, 09:09 PM
  #11
 
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I can vouch for - and highly recommend - Elephant Nature Park, founded by Lek Chailert as a sanctuary and healing place for rescued elephants. It is located about a one-hour drive into the hills north of Chiang Mai and runs its own shuttle vans to transport visitors to the park. Day visitor numbers are strictly controlled and I advise you to reserve well in advance if you must visit on a specific date. If you have some flexibility with dates, it is still advisable to reserve in advance.

http://www.elephantnaturepark.org/tour/index.htm

A day at the park includes feeding elephants and bathing them in the river that runs through the park. A wonderful lunch buffet of freshly-prepared local food is served. One thing you will not get is an elephant ride. These ellies are treated with great love, their dignity is respected and they are encouraged to enjoy their days with their friends, not work to entertain visitors.

If you'd like to see photos from a visit two years ago, here is a link:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?...1&l=07507bbe24
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May 21st, 2013, 03:38 AM
  #12
 
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I'm torn between Elephant Nature Park and Elephant Home.

I do love the idea of actually riding the elephant, which it sounds like Elephant Home does allow, and does it in a careful way. Both limit the number of people who can participate in a day.

Both seem to be respectful and caring of the elephants. Is there a reason to choose one over the other (besides cost)?
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May 21st, 2013, 04:28 PM
  #13
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Thanks to all for these extra comments. Like progol, I would also like to ride an elephant (went on a 2 day safari some years ago doing this), so am very interested in any further replies to progol's query
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May 21st, 2013, 06:39 PM
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Thanks for asking! ENP rescues elephants and tries hard to educate tourists about them, allowing plenty of interaction. We got to bathe them in the river (great fun!), feed and pet them. They never use sharp hooks and the elephants are given as much freedom to be elephants as possible. A little known fact is that most, if not all, of the elephants tourists ride have been put through a ritual that includes separating them from their moms and then penning and torturing them with agonizing physical abuse and no sleep or food. The ones who survive go on to work in logging, giving rides to or performing for tourists. Many die.

I don't know much about the Elephant Home, except that I believe they still use sharp hooks to get the elephants to submit. I also think that their mission is completely different from ENP, which is completely focused on improving the lives of elephants.
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May 21st, 2013, 09:08 PM
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I agree with Cattail. And Thai Elephant Home does use hooks to train and control the elephants. I personally find it distasteful and disturbing that elephants, these beautiful, sensitive, dignified and intelligent creatures, are ridden to provide amusement for tourists.
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May 22nd, 2013, 02:47 PM
  #16
 
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Interesting. After reading the last 2 comments, I began reading the negative reviews on the various camps. The positive reviews for all the camps are glowing, so I read them all circumspectly.

There is, in fact, one person who noticed what appeared to be a recent wound from a hook in an elephant at thai Elephant Home. This was the only critical review of that nature that I noticed, but it gave me pause.

On the other hand, the Elephant Nature Park got negative reviews for having way too much down time- that the "whole" day's experience was realistically only an active 2 hours. Of course, this doesn't speak to the ethics of animals used for entertainment, but it also makes me wonder about the day's experience. So I'm still a bit confused by it all.

Any one else? I'm really interested by the responses.
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May 22nd, 2013, 03:08 PM
  #17
 
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We can really appreciate your confusion, as we experienced similar concerns. Yes, there were hooks at the Elephant Home, but we did not see them used, only carried. We had lots of time riding, which I loved. Bathing them and massages them was fun, too.
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May 22nd, 2013, 07:53 PM
  #18
 
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To be fair, progol and virginafish, we spent an entire week at ENP, not a day. I think though that there is only so much you can interact with elephants if the goal is to keep their environment as natural and stress-free as possible. People intent on riding an ele are not going to be happy here. I don't think that most people are uncaring; they just don't realize what's involved - I didn't.

We learned that the chairs placed on the ele's backs damages their spines beyond repair, and that is maybe the biggest reason elephant riding is never part of a tour here. Also, the eles learn to fear the hooks so much after suffering abuse from them, that the mahout often only needs to raise them to make them mind. An unruly elephant sometimes is hit with them regardless.

You will never see bullhooks at ENP. They are not asked to carry a load of tourists on their backs. The money raised from tourism goes directly to the elephants and to educating local people kinder means of domestication. Those are my main reasons for choosing to visit ENP over other elephant establishments.

Presently, ENP is trying to buy a large segment of land with tourist dollars and donations that would allow them to rescue more elephants and to allow the elephants they have now even more freedom.

Have fun and enjoy Thailand!
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May 23rd, 2013, 03:16 PM
  #19
 
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Wow, this is an eye-opener, thanks for the heads-up about this activity. As someone who will not "swim with dolphins" this is important information.

Anybody have an opinion on Parata Elephant Farm? It gets high marks on tripadvisor, but wondering about the ethical aspect. I won't give my money to anybody who's abusing the animals.

It's a full-day thing with riding, bathing, etc. I'm not entirely sure that I even want to ride an elephant!

As for ENP, can you visit them for just a few hours?
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May 23rd, 2013, 06:26 PM
  #20
 
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It was an eye-opener for me too, WWanderer. The training of a young elephant is called a "crush", and it's awful.

You can visit ENP on a day-tour.
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