Thailand’s endangered elephant population is in need of urgent help. Heavy logging and rapid urban development, which served to severely limit the elephants’ natural habitat has since been followed by a dramatic decline in Thailand’s logging industry over recent decades. The fallout has caused heavy unemployment for Thailand’s captive elephant population and their handlers. “Mahouts”, within a continually shrinking natural habitat. To continue to be able to feed their elephants and feed their families, this dire situation forced the mahouts to take their elephants elephants to tourist areas within Thailand where they would beg for food. Working in cramped developed urban areas which lack the proper food and clean water for the elephants is acutely stressful, both physically and mentally damaging and soul destroying for these elephants.
Surin Province in N.E. Thailand is famous for its association with elephants. Before the occurrence of heavy deforestation in the 20th century, which turned the countryside barren, Surin province was once teaming with wild elephants. In 2005 the government of Surin Province created the “Take Me Home” project with the objective of freeing elephants from street begging in busy cities and tourist areas and bringing them and their mahouts back to Surin province. The Surin government set aside 2,000 acres for this initiative and created the Elephant Study Center. Currently the center subsidizes close to 200 mahouts and their elephants and families living at the center’s grounds located in Baan Ta Klang village in Surin province. Several of these elephants and their mahouts and families participate in the “Country Roads’ Elephant Freedom Project. To participate in the project, mahouts have to agree not to use chains or “hooks” on their elephants and to enroll their children into English Language classes which are provided to them at no cost.
My time at the Country Roads’ Elephant Freedom Project was magical to say the least. Upon arrival, we met the staff and received an orientation. We were then greeted by a group of large, majestic and happy elephants.
Take me home…Country Roads’ Elephant Project. I was privileged recently to experience the Country Roads Elephant project in Surin, Thailand. It was one of those days that I will never be able to forget or replicate, for the right reasons, for the rest of my life.
Today we visited the elephant sanctuary - what an amazing experience! The day kicked off early at 9am with an introduction to the staff and the itinerary for the day, followed by an informative speech given about the work done...