A couple of days ago I was lucky enough to return to Elephant Family Sanctuary, in the Maewang District of Chiang Mai. On this day it started raining just as we got to the camp, so things were done a little bit differently from my previous visit. Our lovely guide Cookie gave us a bit of a run down on elephants and safety around them, then we grabbed our feed bags and climbed the hill to load up on cucumbers. Once again our group was small – there were five of us – and we were joined by a likely couple of lads from London, upon who I directly lay the blame for the ensuing discussion on elephants and flatulence. You know who you are, Aziz and Shay. Continue reading
I’ve just had the privilege of playing with elephants at Elephant Family Sanctuary, in the Maewang District, about an hour and a half south of Chiang Mai. It’s run by my Thai adopted brother Chaiw, who rang me on Saturday afternoon and said he had booked me in for the next morning to go on a half-day excursion and I would be picked up earlier in the a.m. than I am generally comfortable with. So I hauled myself out of bed, foregoing my crucial morning coffee, (potentially fatal to those around me) and got myself ready for this momentous occasion. The EFS silver van duly picked me up at 7.15am and we did the rounds, via back roads and lanes, to pick up the other clientele that were in on this particular trip, Theresa and Tom from California and a young lady from Israel who I think was named Carly. We were a small group today, which I’ve found is always a good thing, as you get to ask your guide lots of questions. And I am indeed rather nosy, although I prefer the label “Curious” or “Enquiring”. There was also a driver, who didn’t speak English, and our guide was a lovely young lady called Hnong, friendly and full of smiles, with quite reasonable English.
When I turned 50, I was awarded ‘Awesomeness Points’ by my daughter for getting my first tattoo in a bamboo hut, down a dirt track, in the jungle of Chiang Mai, North Thailand, surrounded by elephants. Rather a proud moment really, earning said points. Then, a few days ago and three years on, I repeated that journey, from New Zealand to Bangkok to Chiang Mai to an hour north of Chiang Mai then through the elephant park to see Jodi Thomas, artist and elephant activist extraordinaire in her new bamboo hut down another track, still surrounded by elephants, and requested some further tattooing. As you do.
I have just had the pleasure of Jodi Thomas ‘s wonderfully kind and fun hospitality over the last couple of days at the elephant park where she has lived and contributed greatly to the well-being of rescued elephants for around 15 years, situated in the jungle Chiang Mai, North Thailand.
Jodi is a painter, mixed media artist and tattooist, and supports both herself and her son through these mediums. Above is a photo of a print that I have just bought from her. As I’m still traveling for a little while yet, it is still in its plastic and won’t be mounted until I get back home to New Zealand in a few weeks. But it’s just so beautiful that I have hung it up on my guesthouse room as I can’t wait until I get home to be able to gaze at it.
Jodi painted this picture of Kabu, who has a very damaged front leg. But Kabu refuses to be pitied and manages life just fine, thank you very much. This picture is a loving tribute to Kabu’s resilient spirit and downright gutsy attitude.
Here is Kabu’s story:
“Kabu was born around 1990. She arrived to ENP very late on September 22nd 2015. Her mother was a logging elephant. She had to go with her mom while she pushed and pulled logs. At two years old, a log rolled out of control and struck Kabu, breaking her front left wrist. It healed badly and left her very handicapped. Despite this, when she was old enough, she was also put to work in logging doing light labour. She was also subjected to forced breeding. Kabu had two babies, neither of which she was allowed to keep for very long. One was a bull, who died soon after his spirit was broken. The other a female who was sold into the elephant show industry.
Since Kabu had to over use her right front leg to carry her weight, it has also grown very deformed. To gaze upon her, fills you with pity… until you see her move. She gets along quite well. She has lived with this handicap for her entire life. She has dignity. She does not let her injury hold her back… She does not feel sorry for herself. Do not feel sorry for her. She is a survivor!”
Please visit Jodi’s Zazzle page to see some of the products you can buy, printed with Jodi’s awesome and vibrant art, many of which feature elephants Jodi has known, lived with and cared for. Please aid Jodi to not only create a wage to live on but also an awareness of elephants and their plight at the hands of humans and their cruelty and greed.
Grab yourself an awesome piece of art and help spread awareness of both domestic and wild elephants who need all the help they can get. And you can also help Jodi and the elephants by sharing this post far and wide to spread some good loving awareness around. Humans are responsible for the misery that the majority of elephants suffer today, and that way too many have in the past – let’s rip into reversing that situation.
Visit Jodi’s site here:
Thank you for caring. Every little bit we do will help add up to positive change.
Whenever she can, Lek Chailert, founder of Elephant Nature Park, sings a lullaby to Faa Mai, who was born at the park and thinks that Lek is her human mummy. From what I gather, the flapping of the rag resembles the flapping of a mother elephant’s ears or tail.
Check it out HERE
September 2013 and I was at it again. I traveled back to Thailand and instead of wallowing at beach resorts and quaffing drinks with little umbrellas in them, returned to Elephant Nature Park, a sanctuary North of Chiang Mai, and volunteered my sweat and gave myself some blisters to remember. This time I went for two weeks instead of one, and also hauled my partner along so he could see what I had been rabbiting on about for the last year or so. Here’s a photo essay on being an ENP volunteer.
Firstly, this is where we slept. We were surrounded by Australians, so we dug in, marked our territory and guarded it fiercely. It was a great spot – it had a huge veranda outside, complete with guard dogs and several cats, and our room had a bed with mosquito nets, an open-walled ensuite, a tiny frog and a gecko. Unfortunately, it was situated up some stairs. Fourteen steep stairs to be exact. I know this. I counted them at the end of each long, hot day. Fooouuurrrteeennn of them…