Monday, February 11, 2013

Patara Elephant Farm

Ashley turned 27 in Chiang Mai and we celebrated by being 'elephant owners' for a day at Patara Elephant Farm. We washed them, rode them and got in a river with them. 

I try to be a conscientious traveler, but only afterward read that the Humane Society asks people not to ride elephants because of the cruelty involved in training them. Most the elephants on the farm are rescues from circuses and the like, though now there are babies being born into the group. It was unclear if they'll be trained for riding. The surrounds were really nice, the elephants are on 24-hour watch and roam free, never cooped up unless they're giving birth. 

In his opening remarks, the director also alluded to the "everyone-else-is-doing-it-wrong" attitude various elephant groups, sanctuaries and the like tend to have, where his philosophy was more along the lines of "everyone helps differently" (but don't go to a circus). 

They do a clever bit of marketing in that a guide with a fancy camera follows the group around all day and takes wonderful photos of you and your elephant that you of course then share on social media, and then your friends want to come to Thailand and ride elephants. 

I guess it's like the old zoo question -- does the boosted awareness justify submitting animals to unnatural circumstance? I'm not sure, but the day was truly amazing. The elephants were incredible. And before the year is through, I'll make a contribution to the humane society or a (thoroughly researched) elephant conservation group so that I can at least answer that question for myself.

(Bragging rights: the photos that are not people portraits I took myself)

No comments: