Elephant Nature Park
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|Location||Chiang Mai Province, Thailand|
|Land area||800 ha (2,000 acres)|
|Number of animals||37|
|Number of species||1 (Asian elephant)|
Elephant Nature Park is a 250-acre sanctuary and rescue centre for elephants in the Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai Province, approximately 60 kilometres (37 mi) from Chiang Mai City. Founded in the 1990s, the project's aim is to provide sanctuary for distressed elephants from all over Thailand. Set in a natural valley, bordered by a river, and surrounded by forested mountains the sanctuary and surrounding area offers a glimpse of rural life.
Its founder, Sangduen "Lek" Chailert, was born at a remote mountain community in Northern Thailand in the 1960s. Her maternal grandfather was a tribal man of the forest and Lek's jungle forays with him led to an early understanding of the wonders of nature. When Lek was young, her family cared for an elephant which became a close companion to Lek. This affection led to working with elephants in the forests.
Lek founded Elephant Nature Park in 1996. Elephant Nature park aims to provide a sanctuary for elephants to live in a peaceful natural environment. A veterinarian from the park also provides medical care to sick elephants in remote areas. The park's current herd includes disabled, orphaned, blind, and rescued elephants of all ages.
The elephants at the sanctuary are rescued from street begging, logging, or tourism. Some outlived their usefulness to loggers while others became useless to trekking camp owners. Lek's work takes her deep into the jungles of Northern Thailand where, with the help of medical staff, she treats tribal villagers and their families with medical care and, often, donated clothing. Her Jumbo Express programme provides much needed care to elephants in the jungles in Chiang Mai province and beyond.
The park is based in Chiang Mai province, Northern Thailand, some 60 kilometres (37 mi) north of Chiang Mai city and Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX)
Elephant Nature Park has rescued over 37 distressed elephants throughout the country and has received numerous awards from institutions including the Smithsonian. The founder, Sangduen Chailert, was named Asian Hero of the Year by Time magazine in 2005, and the park has been featured in many international publications including National Geographic magazine, as well as feature documentaries from numerous film production companies including Animal Planet, BBC, National Geographic, CNN.
In an area which abounds with elephant parks and camps, this is the only one which rescues mistreated elephants, allows them heal and to live naturally in their self-chosen family groups. The emphasis is on rescue and conservation rather than 'shows' or training. Over 400 Dogs, 50 Buffalo, 30 Cats, 2 Horses, 2 Pigs, a Macaque and a Cow, also live peacefully at the park.
The park is open to visitors all year round. Day trips and overnight stays can be arranged as can longer-term volunteer placements.
Park sustainability and preservation programmes are focused around local culture, common sense, and a deep conviction in the preservation of our home area. In one program, individual trees are saved by tying sacred saffron cloth around each tree, which locals are the reluctant to cut down, fearing insults to jungle spirits.
Lek's efforts have been recognised worldwide and numerous stories have appeared on television and print media including National Geographic and the Smithsonian Society. In October 2010, Lek was received in the White House by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
- 2012 Polish Foundation Award
- 2011 Thailand Good Deed Award
- 2008 Outstanding Woman of Thailand Award
- 2006 Honoris causa – Doctor of Veterinarian Science awarded by HM Crown Prince of Thailand
- 2006 Earth Day Award
- 2005 Time magazine's list of "Asia's Heroes"
- 2003 Guest of Honor of the US Humane Society's Genesis Awards
- "Elephant Conservation Visits, Trips & Volunteering at our park". elephantnaturepark.org. Elephant Nature Park. Retrieved 30 July 2011.
- Hile, Jennifer (17 October 2002). "Reporter's Notebook: Elephants Heal at Thai "Heaven"". National Geographic. Retrieved 2006-02-06.
- "Founder Receives Outstanding Woman of Thailand Award in Royal Ceremony". elephantnaturepark.org. Elephant Nature Park. 8 March 2008. Retrieved 30 July 2011.
- Paewsoongnern, Saichon (2006-05-06). "Park Founder receives honorary PhD from Crown Prince". Chiang Mai Mail. Retrieved 2006-02-06.
- Zabriskie, Phil (2005-10-03). "Asia's Heroes 2005, Sangduen "Lek" Chailert Thailand's Elephant Woman". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2006-02-06.
- "2003 Genesis Awards". Archived from the original on 2005-12-02. Retrieved 2006-02-06.
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