It is a sad day as we leave the elephant sanctuary.
I had no idea what was in store for me when we signed up to volunteer at Elephant Valley Project in Chiang Rai, Thailand and I certainly did not expect to be touched so deeply by the very large residents.
The Elephant Valley Project is in large part a place to only observe the elephants. There is no riding them, swimming with them or touching them. You do get to feed them twice a day which is quite an experience.
We did some interesting stuff for these large majestic mammals. Each morning we went on a "poop patrol" for about 2 hours. Thank goodness their shit is odorless, because the sheer size and scale is hard to quantitatively describe.
Other duties included cutting down banana trees (Because they love bananas and anything sweet.) and doing manicures on the hands of these giants.
This picture below is about 10 banana trees chopped up (or a midday snack for 5 elephants.)
This is one of the elephants waiting to be fed....
A special job we had was to protect the trees, because otherwise the elephants would eat the bark until the trees fell over.
How do you protect a tree from an elephant?
You take a mixture of mud and elephant poop and apply it to the tree trunks!!!!
Well, I have had more enjoyable experiences, but, hey it is all for the elephants. Needless to say, I showered more in a week at the sanctuary than the 12 prior weeks combined.
It is hard to describe how I felt around them. I just watched them every chance I could. They are enormous, but I was most surprised by the dexterity they showed with their trunks. Their ability to pick up all kinds of grass and bamboo, inhale water to then exhale it into their mouths, and reach things high on the trees was simply marvelous. How anyone could kill these animals is beyond my capacity for rational thought. I will not forget them ever and the company is opening a much bigger facility in a year. I hope to come back and see all of these wonderful elephants again.