Gentle Giants

Elephants have been an important part of Thai culture for centuries. In ancient Siam, elephants were used on the battlefields. They were powerful weapons that could trample enemies and knock down barricades.

In the early 1900s, nearly 100,000 elephants roamed freely throughout Thailand. Equal numbers were found in Laos and Vietnam. Today, there are less than 3,000 elephants in Thailand.

Most of the elephants in Thailand are kept at elephant camps or farms. To learn more about the creatures, I spent a day at the Patara Elephant Farm in Chiang Mai.

At Patara Elephant Farm, I befriended an Asian elephant. I also trained to become a mahout. Mahouts breed, train, and tend to these animals. A mahout will care for their elephants for life. Imagine being responsible for an animal that can weigh up to 9,000 pounds and lives to be over 50 years old!

During my mahout training, I fed, bathed, and gave my elephant a health check. Feeding an elephant is a lot of work. They eat up to 650 pounds of food a day. With a simple “ma!”, my elephant opened her mouth and allowed me to feed her bananas. It was an amazing experience to have such a huge creature depend on me.