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A Day In The Life Of An Elephant
May 25, 2014
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A Day In The Life Of An Elephant

One thing that can not be missed when visiting Chiang Mai is spending a day at an elephant sanctuary. I did ride an elephant while I was in India but Amy and I realized that it may not have been a true experience for a variety of reasons and felt bad afterwards because you could see that the elephant was treated poorly.

I went to the RanTong Save and Rescue Center, a sanctuary about an hour out of Chiang Mai. The day was spent feeding elephants bananas, riding and washing them in a river. I was partnered up with a Dutch girl named Maartje.

The biggest goal for RanTong is to educate people on how to properly care for elephants and to save those that are treated poorly by their “mahouts” or caretakers. In many places all over the world elephants are being overworked and underfed. We heard horror stories about how mahouts will take wires and stick them into elephants ears to break their eardrums and what they are trying to do by this is “crush their souls” so that they will be obedient. This is true with elephants in the circus or wherever they are put on display to perform.

When riding an elephant it’s also important to make sure that you aren’t hurting them and you do that by riding them bareback. When I was in India, Amy and I rode in a carriage that was placed on the elephants back when we went to a castle one day(our second time riding an elephant when we were there). Apparently this is very painful for them, no wonder it was grunting while we were on it:( It’s ok for 2 people to ride an elephant but the weight must be distributed evenly, so one person rides on the elephants neck while the other rides on the back of their back. This way they don’t feel anything.

Our elephant’s name was Bayoun and to mount her we had to give her the command to lay down on her stomach and then we climbed up. It’s scary once the elephant eventually stands up because you are so high up in the air. It would be a long way down if you fell! We walked through the beautiful hillsides of Thailand and at times had to stop for Bayoun to “relieve” herself or snack on plants along the way. They aren’t supposed to eat while we are riding them but our mahout told us that elephants that are treated well are usually naughty and thats ok. It means they have a mind of their own and that’s how it should be. Sometimes they bring elephants out for tourists to ride and if they don’t lay down when given the command then that means they don’t want to participate that day and the mahout takes them back and gets another one. An elephant should never be forced to do anything they don’t want to do. This was a good elephant sanctuary!

After lunch we rode our elephants to a river so that we could bath them. They walked right into the water and layed down for us to get off and then we started pouring water on them. Maartje and I were having a “grand old time” until all of the sudden we saw “poo” floating next to us. We SCREAMED!!! I had only met Maartje that day and we were interlocking our arms and squeezing on to each other so tightly you would’ve thought we were friends for 10 years. All of the sudden the mahout picked up the $#it with his bare hands and tossed it off to the side. That about did me in and Maartje as well because all of the sudden she started dry-heaving. I was trying to comfort her but also trying to tell her politely not to throw-up in the water that we were standing in……..I still have my “throw-up” phobia even though it is getting better after being exposed to it a ton during this trip. We both stepped out of the water, thoroughly disgusted and watched while the rest of the group continued to bath their elephants. After about 20 minutes we decided it wouldn’t hurt to go back in again, I mean, our elephant probably wanted to get washed too! Within 5 minutes the water felt like a hottub……..Ahhhhhh we both screamed again apparently an elephant had done “number 1” in the water that we were standing in. We hustled it back out of the water again arm and arm and agreed that we were done for the day. When it was time to head back we were told that we had to get back in the water to mount the elephants. By that time there was $#it just floating everywhere. We scrambled on to Bayoun and were both dry-heaving as she slowly marched us out of the water. It was definitely a fun day but I think the best part of it was the shower I took after I got back to my hotel!

Bayoun

Our mahout that was with us the whole day! Every elephant has their own mahout.

Feeding an elephant takes a lot of concentration!

Please disregard the garb we were given to wear-it made us look 20lbs heavier.

Eating hot spicy soup in 95 degree heat. I think my sweat was dripping into my bowl!

Bath Time!

I loved their elephant. He was trying to completely submerge himself underwater but he coudn’t….he was just too big! So cute.

Having fun as our mahout poured water on us. This was of course, before we knew what was IN the water!

Officially grossed out a watching from the edge.

Trying to wash our elephant from the edge without going to far in.

Ok we’re done!

Get us out of here!

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