It is wonderful to see a herd of elephants that are safe from humans. I took this photograph on my recent trip to to Thailand where myself and a friend were volunteering as veterinary nurses to help care for rescued elephants.

These elephants have formed a herd of their own at Elephant Nature Park in the Mae Taeng District, Chiang Mai Province, in Northern Thailand.  Elephants have strong emotional ties. Predominantly lead by a matriarch, a herd will typically consist of a mother, her children, sisters and nieces as well as other females not related to the matriarch. However, relationships amongst Asian Elephants can be more complex at times consisting of smaller groups.

Unfortunately many young elephants are TAKEN from their mothers.

The surviving family are often killed in front of the calf.
When the calf is first taken, it goes through the ‘Phajaan’ or the crush, this may last days or weeks.  The Phajaan (this video illustrates some of the torture of the crush)

During the Phajaan, the calf is tied up and beaten with hooks, nails and sling shots, deprived of food and water and forced to stand in its own urine and faeces. The elephants trunk will often be tied out of the way as the elephant will try to commit suicide by standing on its trunk.

Once the spirit of the elephant has been crushed, they are then used in the illegal logging trade, trekking, street begging or sold to the circus where the abuse continues. An elephants life span varies between wild/captive elephants but a lifetime of abuse can last 60 years or more.

Many elephants working in these trades will be malnourished, beaten and forced to work regardless of broken and deformed limbs, dislocated hips, spinal problems, blindness, pregnancy and miscarriage

This is the abuse that these beautifully intelligent mammals suffer. 

I went on an elephant trek in 2011 excited to see elephants up close and personal. I was unaware of the cruelty behind it.

Awareness is the key to change. I, like hundreds of other people would have chosen to boycott elephant trekking if I had known the truth behind it.  If we can stop funding these projects they will have to change their ways to survive. 

Please be elephant aware and share to stop the trade. We have the tool of social media, use it to make a difference.

Petition for change

Change.org petition

Useful links

Elephant Nature Park

ENP video

Footage of the phajaan.



Sometimes it feels like we are fighting a losing battle. As I have explained in Taken and Unwelcome, the Asian Elephant faces extreme challenges due to tourism, illegal logging, deforestation and the entertainment industry to name a few.

It is not only the elephants but also thousands of stray cats and dogs that face great hardships in South East Asia.

So let me tell you about how ENP and associated projects are trying their very best to help.is helping. 

During my time volunteering, we were involved in providing care to elephants that have been rescued or retired to the park. When some of the elephants arrive at the park they are like zombies and in poor condition. It can take a lot of time for them to build up trust and for their physical and mental wounds to heal.

Each elephant has a mahout who will care for them, below is a photograph of Jan Peng and her mahout Patee.

Jan Peng is approximately 74 years of age. She is in pretty good shape despite spending the majority of her life working within the trekking and logging industries before retiring.

You may be wondering why she always has a red flower in her ear; this flower is not only decorative but is placed in her ear each day by Patee to cover an old scar from a bull hook. It is heart breaking to think of this gentle giant being mistreated.

While visiting Jan Peng, we medicated her with vitamin B supplements hidden in banana food balls and treated a facial abscess, she was very co-operative, no doubt due in part to the constant offerings of food throughout treatment.

It is hard to hear about Jan Peng’s past but it is wonderful that she can now live out the rest of her days in safety with all the TLC and support she needs.

There are many Elephants at ENP and other projects that need treatment and supportive care.

We were involved in providing wound care to 4 elephants with injuries caused by land mines. These wounds will never fully heal and need to be cleaned twice a day to prevent infection and necrosis.

As you can see below, these elephants have been trained to get into position for their treatment. This is achieved without aggressive means of control (bull hooks, nails, slingshots). Of course, bananas, melons and Ele pellets help a lot!


The staff and volunteers at ENP work very hard to ensure the elephants have the best care.


It is also wonderful to see the small animals, buffalo, horses, monkeys and small mammals that have also been rescued at ENP.

The small animal clinic cares for over 450 dogs. Some of these dogs were street dogs and pets abandoned during the 2011 floods in Bangkok and many are up for adoption.

The lovely dogs here can be sent all over the world to their new forever homes.
Dogs from the local village also receive treatment here for many conditions and every dog is vaccinated and neutered.
If you want to be part of a really rewarding project and get to know the Thai culture and enjoy delicious Thai food this is a really great place to do it.


The human elephant conflict is a chief concern for the Asian Elephant.

Due to deliberate destruction of the rainforest and limited space to roam, elephants are forced to travel to towns, farms and villages in search of food.

Many road traffic accidents occur on these journeys.

Elephants travel along busy roads and highways. The journey is loud and frightening for the elephant and the terrain unsafe.

Many elephants will die or become seriously inured as a result of collisions with automobiles and trains, as well as falling into ditches, wells and manholes. There is often no way to rescue these elephants.

Elephants are unwelcome visitors, damaging and diminishing crops and posing a very real danger to humans.

In a bid to frighten and push elephants away; fireworks are often used, elephants are shot, caught in snares/traps or poisoned by farmers.
Farmers have even been known to plant explosives inside of pumpkins.

After ingesting explosives, elephants will often be found dead after rushing to water to cool down. This leaves many elephant calves orphaned.

Elephants are dependent on their mother for milk for 4 years. Finding a suitable substitute can be a challenge, some milk can cause digestive issues and even death.

Orphaned elephants will often end up in tourism, the circus, elephant orphanages and zoos.

Breeding programmes at some of these parks are causing a further strain, increasing the number of captive elephants for the sake of tourism.

Overcrowding and inability to control elephants, mean that a lot of them are chained. Being chained for prolonged periods, elephants are often left standing in their own urine and faeces and cannot move freely out of the sun. Chains can cause sores and infections, arthritis and mobility problems.

It is difficult to know the solution to a peaceful cohabitation between humans and elephants.  The born free foundation reports that every year 50 people in Sri Lanka alone are killed by elephants and over 100 elephants are killed by farmers.

Support charities making a differenceBorn Free are helping to find humane ways  of protecting humans and elephants by provide fencing, early warning systems and using deterrent foods.

Avoid falling into tourist traps. If it feels wrong, it is wrong.



bbc elephant orphanage video

elephant poisoned in Sri Lanka


nat geo article

bangkok post article, elephant killed by bus

born free, human/elephant conflict