A Family RTW Travel Adventure (2008-2009)
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One Person Can Make a Difference


Elephants are amazing creatures. They are the largest land animals, they eat for 16 hours a day, consuming as much as 495 pounds of food, and they can live up to 80 years. Many people don’t want to take on the challenge of nurturing these sweet, loving, and potentially dangerous animals.


During our stay in Chiang Mai, Thailand we visited The Elephant Nature Park. There are many elephant parks in Thailand but this one was different.

The Elephant Nature Park is run by a woman named Lek Chailert. Lek’s mission is to save as many elephants as possible. She works tirelessly to rescue Thailand’s Asian elephants from the awful treatment many receive.

In Thailand, it is not illegal to bring elephants into town to make money. The government of Thailand classifies elephants as livestock, which means the owner can use the elephant any way he pleases. By these rules, elephants have the same protection as a chicken.


Many people in Thailand take advantage of elephants to appeal to tourists. Street vendors take them into cities at night and get tourists to pay to feed them.

A city is an awful, dangerous place for an elephant. There have been many reports of elephants getting hit by a car or motorcycle as it crosses the street. Elephants are severely stressed by all the activity in a city, and it makes them very frightened.

Lek rescues elephants that have been abused or abandoned and brings them to The Elephant Nature Park in the jungle north of Chiang Mai. As you can imagine, it is a lot of work taking care of the 36 elephants that now live at the conservation center.

To help care for the elephants and educate tourists, Lek has established a week-long program and day trips that let people help feed and care for the elephants.

We went to visit for a day but I had so much fun and learned so much that I would definitely go back again to volunteer for a longer time. We got to help feed the elephants bananas (which they can eat 10 at a time) and pumpkins.

Then we bathed them in the river by splashing water on their backs and scrubbing them with brushes. Afterward we helped clean up around the camp and then bathed the elephants again.


All the elephants living at the conservation center have really sad and touching stories. One elephant, named Maximus, was hit by an 18-wheeler.

Another named Jokia was pregnant while working on a logging project. Soon after she gave birth her baby fell down a hill and later died. Jokia was so sad she lay down and refused to work. Her owner shot rocks in her eyes to get her moving, but instead it only blinded her.

Finally there is an elephant named Hope. His mother was killed by poachers and he was left in the woods alone with out knowing how to take care of himself. Luckily, some villagers found Hope and called Lek to help. Hope now lives happily at the conservation center.

Lek is an amazing and inspiring woman and I think that the Elephant Nature Park is a great project. It shows that one person can really make a difference. I have a whole new appreciation for these big, hungry, amazing animals after our visit.



1 Pam DeWilde { 03.04.09 at 9:19 am }

Caroline you’ve done an excellent job of describing the Park and the reason why it exists. It makes we want to go AGAIN. Maybe someday there will be a reunion of all the RTW young people who have visited the ENP. What fun!

Safe journey,
Pam and the rest of the DeWildes

2 ST { 03.04.09 at 11:28 am }

Caroline, I am so moved by your essay. Love seeing you so happily close to the elephant you are bathing. It is obvious that meeting the elephants and Lek touched your heart. And then you touched my heart. Thank you, and much love, st

3 Doug Spiro { 03.04.09 at 4:37 pm }

Thank you for reminding me that one person can make a difference.

4 Mike Pugh { 03.08.09 at 11:32 am }

Thank you for such a well written and thoughtful article, Caroline. It’s clear that you’ve got a big heart, and you’re already changing the world in a positive way. Bravo!

5 Laura { 03.17.09 at 12:52 pm }

Caroline, thank you so much for writing this!! Animal rescue is a topic very dear to my heart, and the Elephant Nature Park sounds like a remarkable place. You made me want to go volunteer there too! I will be posting about this on my blog later today. Thank you again, and I hope that you do make it back there someday. What an amazing experience 🙂

6 Saving The World, One Elephant At A Time — Global Mama { 03.17.09 at 1:57 pm }

[…] helped clean the camp. It sounds like a truly amazing experience – read Caroline’s article here. And to give some props to Dani and Craig, how awesome is it that they took their kids volunteering […]

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