A new elephant park in Phuket will provide a place for elephants that were formerly working in camps to “retire” in comfort.
The Elephant Nature Park Phuket is set to open in Thalang in August. The sister project to the ENP parks in Chiang Mai, Kanchanaburi, Surin and Cambodia, ENP Phuket will be located near the Khao Phra Thaew Wildlife Sanctuary, on 70 rai donated by Montree Todtan, former owner of At Hill Adventure Park in Chalong.
“An elephant welfare camp in Phuket is a necessity,” Sangduan “Lek” Chailert, founder of the Save Elephant Foundation and a partner in this project, told The Phuket News last week after inspecting the park site.
Lek is an elephant expert and has been featured in documentaries produced by National Geographic, Discovery, Animal Planet and the BBC. In 2010, she was invited to Washington DC to be honored as one of six “Women Heroes of Global Conservation.” She was named one of Time Magazine’s “Heroes of Asia” for her work in conservation in 2005 and the Ford Foundation’s “Hero of the Planet” in 2001.
“I investigated elephant camps and found that many elephants are too old to work. Some are blind, injured and too disabled to be sent home, then they die. It’s very sad,” she said.
According to ENP Phuket, there are 26 elephant camps in Phuket with a total of 216 captive elephants used in the tourism industry for riding and performances. At some of the elephant camps, it has been reported that elephants can be forced to give up to 30-40 rides per day.
“Almost every tourist here is presented with a tour package that includes elephant trekking, elephant show or a baby elephant at a party. This is not impressive for the tourism image here,” said Lek.
She noted that the ENP Phuket will embrace a different type of elephant tourism. The elephants will walk and forage in the forest, socialize with each other, bathe and play in lagoons and roam free.
“Both local and foreign visitors will be able to learn about and enjoy seeing happy and relaxed elephants at our project. It’s a win-win for everyone. Times are truly changing for the Asian elephant and we thank you for being part of this change,” said Lek.
Eleven elephants have been confirmed to be handed over to the park so far. Volunteers, vets and other specialists will be on hand to provide care for the pachyderms on site, and the number of visitors to the park will be limited.
Thai citizens will be able to visit for free while foreign tourists will be charged a fee that will go directly to maintaining the welfare of the elephants and other wildlife on the reserve.
The park will be home to, not only elephants, but several species of animals in need of rescue.
Edwin Wiek, founder of Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, voiced his strong support for the project: “Phuket is still a hell for wild animals, with tiger shows, elephant shows and wild animals in the city and at the beach at night, being exploited all over the island. Having the Elephant Nature Park on the island will set a new standard for animal welfare and start the change the island so badly needs,” he said.
Story: The Phuket News