These beloved creatures hold a special place in the hearts of all Thai’s, they are the national animal of Thailand and have been used in numerous situations throughout the kingdom.From battle war machines to lugging logs through dense jungle to just strolling around the jungles taking tourists on leisure walks through their homes, thee amazing creatures have a lot to offer.
Elephants are something of a mystery to many of us throughout the globe, they are the largest land animal which is in existence, they enjoy one of the longest lifespans of any land mammal, they are highly intelligent and posses immense power yet still have a gentle side to them. With a habitat in the tropics and sub tropic regions of Africa and Asia they are not found in the America’s and Europe unless that is in a zoo. In Thailand they are natively from the forests which make up the landscape of Thailand. Once, ages ago thousands of wild Asian elephants roamed the forests freely from the north to the south, in our current day and age few are left to live naturally in the wild due to increased desire for their tusks and the ivory trade poachers often struck out for a quick profit. There are a number which live in Khao Yai national park in the Isan region of Thailand which are protected by a number of full time national park staff. Other than Khao Yai wild elephants have been hunted or captured so if you want to see a truly wild elephant your best shot is to head north to Khao Yai National park.
Many of these elephants which have been captured from the wild and put to work draw media attention on their treatment and conditions they’re forced to ensure just to get money for their owners and food for themselves. Many of these elephants are worked to exhaustion and not given adequate resting time in-between working days, they are also often beaten by their trainers, so somewhat that media attention is justified. On the other hand these trainers and owners are often tasked with massive areas of land to clear in limited time and a limited labor force in order to meet the quote and get paid, this money will go to feeding the elephants and their families, so it;’s somewhat of a catch 22. We don’t accept the inhumane treatment of elephants but for those in dire situations they must make choices under different circumstances.
Although many of the elephants which end up at logging camps and elephant trekking camps throughout Thailand where the methods for training and keeping the elephants in line is often more on the rough side there is one such place which feel differently.
Phang Nga Elephant Park located just a short 1.5 hours from Ao Nang is leading the way in elephant treatment and practices, using alternative methods and non-violent practices to gain the trust and respect of the elephants from the mahouts (elephant trainers). Although a bull hook or training stick is still present on the trainers in case of emergency typical training consists of pulling the elephants’ ears and guiding them using signals but most of all using positive reinforcement to train the elephants in the first place is the fundamental basis of the Phang Nga Elephant Park’s training philosophy.
Elephants eat 10% of their body weight daily which can be upwards of 400 kilograms daily!
If you teach anything (people of animals) positive reinforcement is a method of teaching by giving reward when a action or response desired is performed. Negative reinforcement is the opposite, once a non desired behaviour is performed or action is done the animal or person is hit or given some sort of punishment. Studies have proved that positive reinforcement is a stronger and better means of training for animals and people alike. Despite this truth many organisations still practice negative reinforcement, Phang Nga Elephant Park is out to try to educate mahouts about different effective methods of training. At this date and time they take in trainers from around southern Thailand and teach them this effective method of training, afterwards these trainers can return to their villages where they came from and implement these same practices in their home villages.
Thats not all The Phang Nga Elephant park has in the plan. They just recently secured a large 70 rai plot of land in the Northern hills of Phuket where they plan to build a clinic, rehabilitation area, training grounds and general living areas of mistreated, injured and old elephants in need of help. they project is planned to begin in the next 5-10 years and will be a great step forward for the region and the industry nationally as the more centres like this one the more accessible care and treatment for elephants is and as a whole the public opinion of the industry will be improved and the elephants lives will be better.
The Phang Nga Elephant park is a special place for the elephants and tourists alike as they strive to teach every guest about the lifecycle of elephants, their social patterns, what they eat and how they live among a number of other questions. Every guest is given a full orientation for the park, it’s history and philosophy as well a ride and a bath with the elephants and finally a tasty lunch to finish off their day.
The elephants and mahouts live side by side in the park with the mahouts small houses just next to the enclosures for the elephants, this improves the bond between both trainers and elephants alike. Come yourself and see what makes this place special and why it’s worth your time.
If you are interested in visiting the Phang Nga Elephant Park please get in touch with them at their website:
or call their manager Khun Jake:
The park arranges transfers and every ticket price is inclusive of all transfer fees from Krabi, Phuket and Khao Lak.