Friday, 1 April 2011

An Elephant Called Medo

One of the things that Jules and I definitely wanted to experience while in Chiang Mai was the magnificent Asian elephants of this region. While we were keen to see them up close, we were both adamant that we didn’t want to buy into anything exploitative. There were many tours that offered rides, performances and even elephants painting ... not for us! Instead we opted for the ‘Elephant Nature Park’ which is an elephant sanctuary that was set up in 1996 for injured and distressed elephants that have been physically and mentally abused or have experienced horrendous conditions working or performing. A 60km trip from Chiang Mai saw us joining a group of like-minded volunteers from around the world keen to make amends for the mistakes of mankind in some small way by befriending and caring for these beautiful creatures. As we were introduced to each of the elephants by name, stories were repeatedly related of such abuse that would bring a tear to your eye. It was gratifying that at least here they would spend the rest of their days living a peaceful and natural life in a caring environment. During our day we spent much of the time feeding the elephants huge volumes of fruit and vegetables and then in the heat of the afternoon, wandered down to the river to soak them with buckets of cooling water. Jules and I were both keen to assist one particular elephant called ‘Medo’ (Mae Do in Thai) who initially caught our attention because she had similar sounding name to ours. We learnt that Medo’s injuries and experiences had been horrific ( resulting in a broken back and damaged leg, but thankfully as a result of her time at the sanctuary she had developed a lovely gentle temperament. She walked slowly, awkwardly and generally behind the other elephants, but we were reassured that she was definitely part of their family and that there was a particular male elephant who would immediately come running to her aid if she called out to him. By the days end we left with a greater understanding of elephant behaviour, but more importantly an appreciation for the fine work being done by this sanctuary. In coming here we didn’t need any performances, just seeing the elephants happy, healthy and content was enough for us.
Footnote: Jules and I were so touched by Medo’s plight that we have now officially adopted her (or at least sponsored her) and will continue to watch her progress over the coming year.

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