Mahout – Living on an Elephant’s Back

      I immediately fell in love with that place. When accompanying the Mahout, I learnt a lot about the giant friendly Big 5 animal and also about the daily life of Mahout – people who keep elephants in Thailand. The Patara Elephant Farm is situated at  the border of a national park – the Doi Suthep Pui National Park. The nature around here is amazing and at some points you might expect Mowgli to jump out and join in for the ride.

The most important aspect, however, is the clean and species appropriate environment those beautiful animals live in and the humans truly dealing with their well-being.

 

Mahout – Close Up

 

 A traditional Mahout would start his career as a young boy within the family business, getting responsible for an elephant of his own. Throughout his life he would create a bond between himself and the elephant that will get stronger and stronger.

This picture shows some traditional mahout clothes. A robust material is used when working with the giants.

 

Cleaning & Health Care

 There are a few commands in Thai that each elephant here understands. As they lie down, it gets possible to clean them from dirt and search for wounds. One of the mahout asked me if I have seen pictures of ‘whining’ elephants some animal activists promote in order to warn about certain elephant farms. He described that elephants actually need to have those wet eyes and that it is not necessarily crying. It is even considered unhealthy if elephants don’t have wet eyes as they might be dehydrated. There still might be reasons to avoid some elephant farms, but such pictures are misleading, he said.

 

Feeding my Elephant ‘Tha-Tha’

 Tha-Tha is a female elephant living on the Patara Elephant Farm. The young mahout responsible for her told me how important it is to learn her name. I agreed and liked his attitude immediately. Tha-Tha eats about 360 kg of bananas, cucumbers, pineapples, papayas, corn and leaves per day! That’s insane, but how else could you get this big?

We even got to investigate their poo (which doesn’t stink by the way as it mainly consists of grass). An elephant is supposed to be healthy as long as they make 5 of those poo balls every hour!

 

Ooops…

 

So what do we have here?

Having a little ride together before the big ride starts…

I really like it that the elephants are free to do whatever they want.

After about five minutes, they would let go of each other and continue eating.

 

If I may?

Have you ever asked yourself how they get onto these giant elephants?

Well, there are indeed many different ways! A mahout can give a command to his elephant so it would raise its foot. Stepping onto the foot and getting a hold of his ear (don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt them) enables the mahout to climb on top of his elephant like using a ladder. Another way is to go up front – like a pro! – using the trunk.

Once you have settled down right after his head, the journey can start!

 

Into the Wild – On an Elephant’s Back

It was an incredible feeling to sit on Tha-Tha’s back and make my way through the wilderness. Sometimes, there were big gaps of over one metre height for her to cross and all I could think was ‘Oh dear oh dear!’ – and then Tha-Tha just walked it down like it is nothing!

This truly is one of my favourite experiences ever.

 

Bathing with the Elephant Family

Oh my god – it was so much fun! Watching the herd enjoying their company, diving all heads down under water and snorting all over the place!

I loved to be right with them, scrubbing the dirt off their skin and playing around with them.

There were two baby elephants swimming and diving with so much joy!

It was just beautiful.

 

The Little One

I happened to be very lucky when I got to this farm. They recently got offspring. This little boy is just 6 months old and already very eager to play! At one time, he really fell onto me! Thank god he is not as fat as the big ones 😉

 

Worrying Situation for Elephants in Thailand

During my way throughout the country I came across different-looking places as well. There were elephants chained next to the streets, for every tourist to see and stop by so they would pay for a photo or a short ride.

Once I was sitting at a coffee place when I realised a little baby elephant chained to a nearby street. He was left there all alone, without a mother or a human or anyone. The baby would trumpet and try to move but the chains were just too tight, like not even 1 metre to the pole. I don’t know if it was his way of crying but it was just heart-breaking to watch.

I didn’t finish my coffee and left.

I really feel like sharing this post as I hope tourists will say no to that kind of inappropriate treatment.

 

A Sustainable Elephant Farm

I still have enormously impressive memories of this place. I loved how they treated their elephants, they truly cared for them. The whole set up of the farm makes people understand about the importance of standing up for those handsome creatures who cannot fight for themselves.

Soulias recommendation:

The Patara Elephant Farm offers a lot of experiences around its beloved elephants. I know, it is a bit expensive (e.g. ~ 5,800 Baht for a day). But if you are looking for a sustainable place that treats his elephants good and walks the extra mile to make sure they are alright, then invest in this place!

www.pataraelephantfarm.com

 

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