Female travellers: volunteering with elephants

One of my biggest dreams is to do some volunteering work with animals somewhere in Africa or Asia. No surprising then, that when I met Kinga Bielejec, a Polish travellers and author of the blog Gadulec, and I heard that she had a chance to take part in this adventure, I thought: Wow, another Female Traveller who inspires to act! And I asked her to tell about this amazing event in her life.

Read the following text written by Kinga about working with elephants. I hope that it will inspire you to this type of journey! Have a nice reading!

Volunteering in the village of elephants in Pai (Thailand)

When I was a little girl I loved all kinds of animals. Small, large, hairy or without hair. The most I dreamed about being able to communicate with them. That time the idea of ​​going to Asia or Africa appeared in my head for the first time, to go there and learn more about elephants. I can not explain why those animals fascinated me the most. It is possible that it was caused by some films or books. When in March this year my dream finally came true, I was the happiest person in the world. Unfortunately, the reality turned out to be slightly less colorful, than my childhood imagination.

Six months trip to Southeast Asia

I begun my trip to Asia with my partner in October 2014. It was our first such a long journey we did together. We visited Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. We experienced a lot of amazing moments, traveled thousands of kilometers, we met amazing people, seen historically and culturally important places. In addition we confirmed our beliefs that we want similar things in life and we fit together. After 5 months my boyfriend returned to Poland, and a few days later a friend joined me. With her I had a 2-week volunteering in the village of elephants in Pai.

Volunteering in Thom’s Elephant Camp

We arrived to Pai in the second half of March. Along with several volunteers from around the world we took care of three female elephants. I fell in with Ot, Tatdau and Pompem fell at a first sight. Each of them had a totally different personality – I had no idea that elephants are so similar to humans! Ot was the calmest and the wisest. The largest and a bit naughty – Tatdau. And Pompem was a “small” hooligan (she received from us the nickname “bad boy”).

Every morning, along with elephant trainers, we took them from the meadow where they spent the night. Then we fed them and cleaned boxes. We also served the tourists – showed them how to feed the elephants and what kind of tricks our patients are able to do. The hardest job was foraging for elephant – a few hours of cutting bamboo and banana trees in 35-Celsius-degree heat was for me exhausting. We did it every two days on average, because each elephant eats about 300 kg of food per day. In the evening we walked animals back in the meadow.

When there were not many tourists we walked together to the river. We bathe with female elephants, they were dropping us into the water and they all had a great time. At least I think so. Unfortunately, so far I acquired no skills from my childhood dreams and I could not ask Ot, Pompen or Tatdau whether they like to spend the time this way. Here comes the biggest problem of this type of places, because…

Even the best resort for Elephants is still a captivity

Unfortunately. Elephants in Thom’s Elephant Camp are treated well. On a daily basis they do not have chains on their feet, they get a lot of food, the boxes are clean, however, sometimes they work even 12 hours  day by day. Sometimes their trainers hit them with sharp sticks. Apparently rare, but still… If the elephant threatens people, you have to react. That;s why they have those sticks. And the elephant can not be fully domesticated as a dog. It will always remain wild. That’s why at night it is strapped to a tree with a chain. Apparently the 20-meter long, but the chain is a chain. It is used to restrict freedom. In addition, elephants working in Thom’s Elephant Camp carry tourists on the back. Fortunately, not in uncomfortable and heavy baskets, as in many other camps. I am not convinced if elephants like that. Is a pleasure for them to walk every day to the river or the mountains with people on the back. It is possible that they like it. Sometimes I had the impression that they have fun dropping tourists into the water. But this impression could be deceptive. Finally, all of this enjoys most the owners, because for such pleasures tourists have to pay a lot of money. Thom is a good man, he spent a lifetime with the elephants. However, the best would be to simply let these animals go. But would it really? It’s quite possible that after a few days, they’d get cought by poachers. And then got killed or enslaved. It’s a vicious circle. It’s hard at this point for a good solution. Shame, because elephants are beautiful, intelligent and sensitive animals.

What volunteering in Pai taught me?

Two weeks allowed me to observe these extraordinary creatures. I realized how much impact man has on the environment. I met people from all over the world and I was able to talk longer to Thais. I learned a lot about their culture and traditions. I have the impression that they do not see anything wrong in detaining the elephants in captivity. Having this animal is a source of pride, a sign that a man has a considerable fortune. If human rights are not always respected in that country then who cares about rights of other beings? You can not only look at the world through your own prism. Each of us grew up in different places, we have a different definition of love, goodness or evil. You need to be respected and not impose anyone your opinion. Of course you can discuss, present your arguments, your own point of view. But nothing by force.

I don’t regret that I took part in volunteering. Finally it fulfilled my big childhood dream. However, I hope that someday I will find a way to help these animals. That even a bit I will help to free elephants and let them live without any worries in the jungle. Where they belong.

If you are interested more about volunteering with elephants in Thailand, follow Kinga on her Instagram or Facebook fanpage.

Would you like to do some volunteer work with animals? What kind of animals would you like to look after? Share your opinions with us in the comment box below! And if you would like to ask Kinga about volunteering, feel free to ask in the comments, too! 

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