We spent our honeymoon in Thailand. For one week of our trip, we chose to volunteer at Elephant Nature Park, outside of Chiang Mai. It’s really difficult for me to find the words to describe this place. Every time I want to talk about it, too many stories, memories and facts fill my head and what I relate is disjointed and rambling. Every time I think about the elephants at ENP my heart feels like it’s going to burst from the love and the hurt that I feel for these animals and what they’ve been through.
I don’t want to go too deeply into the state of these animals in Southeast Asia so I’m going to keep this post about love and the important lessons I learned from the elephants but suffice it to say, we ALL need more education regarding elephants so please visit Save Elephant Foundation and to learn how you can help these incredible gentle giants!
In just a week, these giants taught me such important lessons that I have been striving to implement in my regular human life, and I wanted to share five here; maybe you’ll be inspired by the elephants too!
Many elephants arrive at ENP alone. If they’re young, an older elephant will naturally adopt and become a nanny to the baby, raising it as her own and creating an unbreakable bond. When a single older lady arrives, she might be invited to join an already existing family group. The greatest thing about these family groups is that they’re not often actually biologically related because so many elephants are forced to be separated from their family in the tourism industry. In the wild, elephants live in matriarchal societies, so when they’re allowed to do this at the sanctuary, absolutely beautiful chosen families are created. These families roam the property together, bathe together, eat together, look out for each other and when they pass away, mourn for each other.
Ele lesson: Community and chosen family is everything. If you don’t have a family of your own or if you have a troubled home-life, create a community worth your love and attention.
- Forgiveness and Trust:
Elephant Nature Park now focuses their original property to house older and more injured or sick elephants. In the wild, elephants have the same life span as humans, but often in captivity they die much earlier, due to complete mistreatment and depression. After being tortured for their whole lives, if they have the good fortune to live out their days in freedom at ENP, they truly have been given a second lease at life. Their ability to TRUST humans after what humans put them through, is absolutely mind-blowing to me. Not all of them do, there are some loner elephants who will only trust their Mahout (caretaker), but with others, they have found it in their hearts to forgive and trust the species that was so terrible to them for so many years.
Ele lesson: Giving forgiveness and a second chance, even if it takes a while to gain trust again, can result in a beautiful and peaceful way of life.
- Grace and strength:
Elephants have 40,000 muscles in their trunks, divided into as many as 150,000 individual units! This is how they are capable of picking up a toothpick as well as a tree trunk and how they communicate, drink water, forage and eat food, protect and defend. A true gentle giant.
Ele lesson: Live steadfast in your conviction and be strong in your opinions, but remain soft and flexible in your life. Have a soft but firm touch in all you do.
What sound does an elephant make? That trumpet is only a very small fraction of the sounds that they make and the way that they communicate. Most of the sounds they make are produced with the same physical mechanism as human speech but far below the range of human hearing. They are constantly communicating with each other using infrasound and body language.
Ele lesson: Clear and constant communication are important but raising our voices high is not always necessary.
Elephants consume often more than 300 pounds of vegetation per day and spend 80% of their lives eating. They are arguably the largest vegans in the world and survive wholly on plants, eating leaves, roots, bark, twigs and fruit.
Ele lesson: Eating is awesome! And yes, even you can survive on a plant based diet!
These animals are truly remarkable. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from them and I cannot wait to return to Elephant Nature Park!
PLEASE do your research before visiting elephants anywhere. Once you know the truth, you will only want to support the sanctuaries that are trying to protect this almost endangered species. I’m happy to answers any questions that you may have, to the best of my abilities.