In 2009, I spent just over a week at Elephant Nature Park (ENP), just north of Chiang Mai in Thailand. The Park rescues elephants who have been abused, injured or abandoned, or whose owners simply cannot care for them any longer.
It was an incredible experience. While I spent most of the week shovelling poop, cutting corn and washing elephants, I was also blessed to spend time with some of the most amazing, caring, intelligent animals (and people!) I have met. I was even present for the birth of a baby elephant outside our hut one morning at 4am.
ENP is a very special place. The elephants are well cared for, but are allowed to roam and act as naturally as possible within a large, open environment. There are vets on site, and they take care of some of the most fragile and cruelly mistreated of this amazing species.
Currently, Elephant Nature Park, like the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT), is being threatened by the Thai National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department. Over the past few days, up to 100 armed men have taken away animals from the WFFT centre, after its founder and director, Edwin Wiek, spoke out against elephant poaching and smuggling for the Thai tourist trade.
Raids have also taken place at ENP over the past month, although no elephants have at this stage been removed. In fact, after the earlier raids, the ENP founder, Lek, noted that “At the end of the day the officials from 10 different departments has sign [sic] papers acknowledging that we have no wild elephants and nothing illegal inside the park.”
Now, however, the staff at ENP have been warned that the confiscation of elephants and the arrest of Lek are both likely over the next few days.
Please, speak up if you can. There is a petition here. You can share your support on the ENP website. ENP is one of only a few real sanctuaries for elephants in Thailand and Burma and it needs to remain standing.