An Elephant Caretaker (Mahout) For The Day

6 May

Probably the most amazing experience we had while living in Thailand was visiting Baan Chang Elephant Park.  They rescue elephants and protect them from poachers who are willing to kill them  for money.  They also take in elephants who worked in the logging industry and are no longer able to.  We were able to get up close and personal with the elephants, feed them, ride them and bath them.   It was such a great experience that we want to share  it with you.

There are a few elephant rescue organizations in Chiang Mai and we decided on this one based on cost and good reviews from Trip Advisor.  This sanctuary  is serious about protecting and preserving the Asian elephants from poachers.  Each elephant has its own handler, called a “mahout”.  The mahouts live on the property to care for the elephants 24 hrs a day.  When we arrived, it was explained to us that the elephants are chained to an area for several reasons:

  1. To not walk off in the jungle and be killed
  2. To not wander into the village and cause any harm
  3. To not fight and kill one another
Our guide getting bananas ready

Our guide getting bananas ready

They do exercise the elephants 3 times a day, but until they can gain more funding to buy more land, this is the best protection for them.  They provided us a change of clothes as caring for elephants is dirty business.

Ron feeding bananas to an elephant

Ron feeding bananas to an elephant

We were first given a large basket of banana bunches and pieces of sugar cane to give to the elephants as their snack.  We were told to hold out the banana bunch to them and place it on their trunk and they will grab them and put them in their mouth.  So, we grabbed as many bananas as we could and set off to feed the elephants that were in the far back.  As we were passing the other elephants, they would stick their trunks out to us hoping to have some of our bananas, so we fed them on the way to the back and realized we didn’t have much left after passing all the “beggar” elephants and had to go back and replenish.  The elephants really enjoyed the bananas.  One of them didn’t want the bananas in his trunk, so he let it drop to the ground.  His mahout said he likes to be fed in his mouth, so Ron picked up the bananas and put them directing into his mouth!

DSCN2268

Dee feeding sugar cane to the elephant

After snack time, we practiced how to sit on an elephant bareback (touristy places have bamboo seats that we were told actually harm the elephants), the commands  to make him turn, move forward and stop. The command to make your elephant lay down is “nah long”.  You have to repeat it and do it loudly and your elephant will kneel down so you can climb on.  It was a bit scary at first sitting 2 stories high on such a large animal, but you get use to it quickly.   One of the elephants we were practicing with walked up to the tree in front of us and started scratching herself like a dog would scratch on a post.  She even wiggled her behind.  She was very funny to watch.

After lunch we were ready for our trek into the jungle on our elephants!  Ron and I shared an elephant and once we got on, off we went.

Riding bareback

Riding bareback

The mahout led us as we walked the path into the jungle following the other people in our group on their elephants.  We stopped after a half hour to give the elephants (and us) a break.  When we finished the trek,  we walked the elephants to a pond where we were each given a bucket and brushes to brush down our elephants.  They really seemed to enjoy this since it was quite hot out and they know their routine that dinner comes next.

Our mahout ordered our elephant to lay down in the water and we got along side her and brushed her in the water.  I decided to climb on top of her and brush her from up there and after 10 minutes or so, without warning, she stood up with me on her!  I was like, “whoa, where ya going?!” But our mahout ordered her to lay back down which she did.  Afterwards the facility provides a simple shower for you to get cleaned up and back into your dry clothes.  As all animals, these are amazing creatures and we are grateful at the opportunity we had to meet them up close.  Here are some more pictures from our day:

Riding along

Riding along

Bath time

Bath time

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3 Responses to “An Elephant Caretaker (Mahout) For The Day”

  1. Brenda Scheider May 8, 2013 at 7:02 am #

    I am totally jealous. I have an elephant fetish. How fun!

    Brenda Scheider

    RV Park Manager

    Mission Bay RV Resort

    2727 De Anza Road

    San Diego, CA 92109

    Phone (858)270-4300

    Fax (858)270-4330

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  2. Chris May 8, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

    Absolutely jealous! Of all things ya’ll have posted, this would rank up there with my visit to the Parthenon (where I cried by the way)! Awesome!

  3. drubano May 8, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    Thanks Brenda and I know you would of loved it Chris. You’ll need to visit some day.

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