The following guest posts are written by Leanne Fogarty, an elephant ambassador and advocate as she travels through Thailand.
Day 1 – Arrival
Finally. Nineteen hours, 11,800 km and now I am in Bangkok. I have 2 weeks in Thailand. One week in beautiful Koh Tao (Turtle Island) and one week volunteering at an elephant freedom project in Surin. The Surin Project is run by the Save Elephant Foundation – better known for its Elephant Nature Park near Chiang Mai. The ENP cares for 42 injured, old,or formerly abused elephants from the logging and tourism industries. Volunteers stay for a week or more, working for the “chang” (elephants) instead of the other way around. The volunteer’s donations fund the huge costs of providing medical care, a healthy, varied diet and hundreds of acres for the eles to roam. In the wild elephants can walk 24km a day. There is no elephant riding at ENP. The volunteers plant food for the eles, harvest and cut up the food, pick up dung, wash and play with the eles in the river, and walk beside them. Basically the Park lets eles – finally – BE eles.
As soon as I retrieve my bag and head for the exit, 3 huge anti-ivory posters block my path. Impressive! So it IS true. Thailand is working on its contribution to the poaching crisis. Let’s hope it also becomes sensitive to the abuse of its elephants in the name of entertainment and the mighty tourist dollar.
The warning signs at Bangkok airport. Source: Leanne Fogarty