the elephants

through the window i catch a glimpse of elephants climbing out of the river and an involuntary “ahh” escapes my lips. there is something special to me these creatures, and this is the first time i have seen one in real life.

i had been under the impression that we would be visiting the elephant hospital/conservatory, but this is not to be. instead we are visiting a “working” elephant farm. previous to 1990, elephants were used to log the rain forests of thailand, and in 1989 a ban on logging displaced numerous elephants that had once been used as work animals. the farm we visit is a tourist attraction to show how these elephants once used their size and remarkable trunk agility to move and stack timbers.

i sit away from the others as we watch the mahouts guide the elephants into the river to take their morning bathes. the sunlight dappling through the trees, and the seeming pleasures as the elephants spray themselves with the cool water tickles my heart. what i would give to be able to be in the river playing with them….

afterward the show commences with the mahouts guiding the creatures through the routines to demonstrate how the elephants would have been used in the logging process. i pay little attention to the show, preferring instead to watch the littlest one off to the side scrounge through some branches and leaves with its trunk in search of some edible goodies.

later i purchase some bananas and feed a couple of the pachyderms through a fence. i laugh at the warning “if bananas drop in front of the elephant, so not attempt to pick them up”. seeing the voracious appetite of the animals, i could just imagine what would happen should a human reach for the food at the same time…  🙂

k. feeding a little one some bananas

definitely one of the highlights of the trip, the visit to the farm leaves me conflicted. seeing elephants used as performers, even in this context, is somewhat saddening. this unease is even more pronounced around the creatures who have chains attached, and whose mahouts carry sharp-bladed guiding implements. yet, if not for places such as these, what would become of the numerous elephants displaced from the work they once did?

i ask myself why it concerns me that these animals are used as work animals when the use of oxen or horses doesn’t bother me at all. i don’t know the answer. it has to do with an inexplicable feeling deep inside. i do know that i do want to visit the animal hospital/conservatory   one day.  founded by a young thai woman with a deep love of these creatures, this is a place that gives me some joy, not as much as seeing the creaures returned to their natural habitat would provide of course, but that is not an option these days. there is not enough forest left for them to return to….


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