CISABROAD BLOG · August 25, 2022 · 5 Min Read
An Unforgettable Experience at the Elephant Nature Park

During our Veterinary Science Semester in Thailand, students spend time at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai shadowing veterinarians & assisting them with daily care for elephants and various types of animals. Keep reading to see why Christina’s experience at the ENP was like no other.

Day 1 at the Elephant Nature Park

The Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai was an experience like no other. The tranquil atmosphere of the surrounding fields and the herds of elephants and water buffalo casually strolling by was something I thought I’d only experience through a screen. My first day at Elephant Nature Park was an orientation & staff meeting. They’ve dedicated their lives to caring for the animals at elephant nature park. Contrary to its name, Elephant Nature Park is home to much more than just elephants. There’s a section of the park called cat kingdom where hundreds of cats roam in a large, enclosed area and are fed and washed on a set schedule. The park also houses pigs, horses, goats, buffalo, dogs, rabbits, and, of course, elephants.

One of the paraplegic dogs at the park.

Day 2

We started our second day at ENP with our vet rounds. We were allowed to shadow the elephant vets as they tended to each elephant at the park. They’d ride around on a motorbike with a cart carrying sticky rice and medications/supplements to feed to the elephants. At times we would help hide the medications in the sticky rice for the elephants to eat. Some elephants took the sticky rice easily, but some would throw it onto the ground and eat around the medication. We were always on our toes because there were elephants who had no problems walking up to get food. Other elephants were a bit timid and would shy away from us because we were strangers.

Bribing one of the elephants with bananas

While there were easier elephants to care to, there were a few that needed a little more attention and care. One baby elephant hated taking her medication so we’d lure her with the promise of bananas so she’d take it. There were also some special needs elephants that needed daily medical attention. Another elephant had stepped on a land mine at a young age and was severely wounded. For her, we’d lead her into a fenced enclosure so we could un-bandage her foot and clean it with disinfectant before rewrapping it for the rest of the day. One elephant had skin problems and required a medicated bath every day. We used brushes attached to long sticks to scrub the top of the elephant’s back and face. 

Day 3

The third day was spent at the dog rescue section of the park. 5-6 dogs are placed in each kennel separated by size and temperament. We helped the volunteers wash the dogs that needed medicated baths and performed physical exams on the smaller dogs. I fell in love with a small brown and white chihuahua that looked like a frog who, unfortunately, I was not allowed to take home. We then headed to a covered area that housed the paraplegic dogs.

This area was divided into three sections that held 15-20 dogs. All of the dogs housed here were unable to use their hind legs or had neurologic problems. Many of them wore diapers while others were kept in cribs. I was truly touched by the determination and dedication of the caretakers who so carefully took care of these dogs. Floors were cleaned every 30 minutes or so to keep the dogs from running in their own feces and were bathed on a strict schedule. Each dog had their own wheelchair that allowed them to walk around the park on a regular basis. 

Spending time with the dogs

The Cat Kingdom

The cat kingdom was a shelter that doubled as a café. People from all over Thailand come to visit these cats to hopefully take home a friend. I have truly never seen so many cats in one place. Cats of varying sizes and colors running up trees, sneaking across the fields, and tussling in the bushes. If you were to sit down at any point you would be surrounded by an army of cats vying for your attention.

The cat kingdom

Elephant Nature Park was the very definition of an animal sanctuary – a place where animals were truly everyone’s number on priority. There’s still a large portion of the park that I’ve yet to explore and am extremely excited to return one day.

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