Ethical Viewing of Elephants Thailand – Conserve Natural Forests
Dates: 13 Mar
Alongside doing a cooking course another must-do thing for me in Thailand was to go and see elephants. The ethical viewing of elephants is fairly difficult to do in Thailand. A lot of riding camps still exist, and lots of “sanctuaries” still treat their elephants badly, beating them to do as they’re told for tourists.
You should never ride an elephant, their spine is not the same as one in an animal like a horse and with them being wild animals they are beaten and tortured into submission to allow people to ride them without acting out – a truly wild elephant would not allow a saddle and people on its back.
I heard from several people that Conserve Natural Forests was reputable and a good place to see elephants without concern of bad treatment. Their primary goal isn’t to keep elephants for tourism, but to help with reforestation in the local area and to help repopulate elephants.
The two elephants that CNF have were pregnant when I was there – and they said once they give birth and they are ready to do so they will be donating them to the Queen’s conservation centre – one place in Thailand where elephants truly are safe.
You meet just outside of the centre of Pai at 1pm and get picked up by the team at CNF, then taken to their land. After a quick introduction to the area and the company and what they stand for, you head down the river to find the elephants. You feed them where you find them for 20-30 minutes then head back to the river with them to bathe them – seeing an elephant flop over in the water in elation allowing everyone to throw water over its back is one thing that will stay with me forever.
After they’ve decided it’s time to finish bathing they hang about for a couple of hours near the hut at the entrance, and there are mahouts on hand chopping up a constant supply of pumpkin so you can keep feeding them as much as you like. There is also a small kitchen there serving fried nice, fried noodles and drinks if you’re hungry or thirsty.
Near to the end of the day you get taken to a section where they are growing trees and get shown trees at different ages. Here you prepare a seed for planting, then get a sapling that’s a few years old to plant in CNF’s land. This is a nice touch over the sanctuaries as you feel like you’re helping the local environment, not just paying to visit some elephants.
With CNF being an NGO they ask for a minimum donation of 500baht, which while the day is shorter than if you went to a sanctuary, it’s also much cheaper. Anybody looking to see elephants while in north Thailand should definitely go here, I had a great day.