Living in a matriarchy, or female groups, don’t expect of the elephant’s behavior to be much different from the human’s. This will include a lot of talking about feelings and looking in the mirror too. And not to forget about their impeccable memory.
Elephants are the largest land animals and the largest ever recorded was 4m tall and 11,000 kg heavy. They are herbivores animals and their diet consist of various types of vegetation including grass, leaves, roots, flowers, and fruits. Actually lots of them. To keep their massive size in shape they have to drink up to 150 l of water and eat 100 kg of food every day.
Their characteristic long noses or trunks explain where does their exceptional sense for smell comes from and their big floppy ears tell a lot about the extraordinary ability for hearing that they possess. They are the only ones with such long trunks on the planet, which is a combination of nose and an upper lip. Elephants can breathe, touch, smell and produce sounds with their trunks. Comprised of thousands of muscles not only that trunks can be heavy and powerful, but they also are used in expressing feelings or in greeting. Trunks help elephants pick up heavy things, but equally small too. Elephants will suck the water into their trunks and blow it into their mouths. And that’s how they drink water. In the same way, when it’s too hot they’ll take a shower. Only this time they’ll blow the water over their body. And the best part about their trunks is that they can actually snorkel using their trunks to breathe above the surface. Well, they can swim, but can’t jump.
Elephant skin can be as thick as 3 cm but it is sensitive to the sun. Their UV protection for the season would be the mud. To protect their skin of the sun elephants will cover themselves in the mud. The youngest adore playing in the mud though. It’s their fun thing during their childhood. Baby elephants may often be seen walking under their mother’s body, between their legs, enjoying a nice shade that keeps them away from the sun without ever getting stepped over by their mothers.
They usually will give birth to 4 calves in their lifetime and have the longest gestation period of all the land animals, 22 weeks. When the young are born they have to learn the survival techniques from the older and their mothers. They can live up to 70 years.
Their big teeth are called tusks and are often used to dig for water and as a weapon in fights with their rivals for dominance thus whoever has larger tusks that much is more attractive to the females.
Unfortunately, they’ve been illegally hunted for their tusks. Ivory products are made of tusks to make many items for human enjoyment. Speaking of tusks, there are two types of elephants, the African and the Asian. African male and female elephants have tusks while in Asia only the males have and they won’t be as long either as in Africans. Asian elephants had tusks just as the Africans but because of the extreme hunting over the years, all of that has changed a lot. The fact that the males with the longest were killed and only the elephants with smaller tusks were left to live somehow past on their genes. Asian elephants have smaller ears too.
Elephants live in a matriarchy, female social groups, led by the oldest (or the grandma :)). Group of elephants is called a herd and it’s formed of tightly related female elephants and their calves (young elephants) which are raised by the whole herd. Every auntie and nannie is welcomed and included in raising of the newborn elephant in the herd. Males leave their herd at the age of 15 to live their solitude life, wandering around solo.
The herds are led by the oldest female in the matriarchy. In those female groups, it doesn’t come as a surprise that feelings would be the main topic. Elephants seem to understand a lot of their mutual feelings. So, when another elephant is under the weather feeling unhappy other elephants will approach and comfort often by touching the face with their trunks or by putting their trunk into the other’s mouth. They can cry, laugh and even mourn their death.
They are very intelligent creatures with the ability to recognize themselves in the mirror and have a superb memory. Other animals would think there is another animal in front of them when seeing their reflection in the mirror, but not the elephants, they know who are they looking to. And that’s just one reason more for all those females to talk about. They communicate with sounds like trumping and purring. Their very lasting memory can come quite helpful during the dry seasons. In search of water, elephants can remember the location of a waterhole visited years even decades ago. And when the oldest granny with the biggest record of locations of waterholes in her head rewind back the visited ones throughout her life with no doubt she would find some nice water source for her herd. No wonder everyone will follow her while showing the herd where to go for water or food and what to do in situations that need a decision.
Visit an Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand
Being the national animal of Thailand, elephants have a deep connection with the Thai culture, history, and tradition. Elephants nowadays are taking a great part of tourism in Thailand. But, their past isn’t a bright one because of the humans, their poaching, training, and loss of habitats. There is still an ethical way to meet these giant creatures in person and spend some time with them. It simply means that you’ll be involved in their everyday routine like feeding and bathing.
The importance of the elephants in Thailand and their well-being
One way to be with elephants in Thailand is by visiting one of the elephant sanctuaries. These are rescue and rehabilitation centers in Thailand for elephants that were trained in the past by their owners, tortured, injured or forced to perform unnatural activities to them such as the circus and show performances to be one of the examples. Now they have a second chance for a peaceful life in a natural surrounding where anyone can volunteer or pay a visit to help.
Without work in tourism, or tourist paying for watching shows with elephants or riding a one, elephant owners will have no means to care for their animals anymore. Which means that eventually, they would have to be released into the wild where they belong.
Since the reality is a bit more complicated for now if we do want to spend some time with the elephants and help them to have a normal life, we, the tourists should be visiting these sanctuaries and parks where elephants have normal activities, natural to them and won’t ever be forced to do anything just for the people’s amusement and fun or be ridden by the tourists. If these elephants weren’t in a park where are properly taking care of, their owners would probably force them to perform shows, demonstrate behavior that was learned by training or be ridden by the tourists.
Moreover, these sanctuaries provide education for the owner and a mahout, showing the owners how they can still provide a safe income from their elephants without being mistreated, in a healthy natural environment. The elephant keeper in Thailand or mahout is the person with exceptional skills and a sense of bonding with the elephants. The elephant owners will usually hire a mahout to work and keep the elephants. There is a manual for mahout that describes in details how they should and do care for the elephants.
One of the most popular volunteering activities in Thailand is working with elephants. In some parks or sanctuaries, you can stay for free for a week or more in exchange of work for about anything that can be done in the park from cleaning, cooking to building and constructions works. If you do love animals and the thought of bonding with these gentle animals excites you the volunteering programs might be just for you. Just be sure to do your research and pick a reputable one since almost all elephants in Thailand are in private ownership and their part in tourism income is huge making it a quite delicate subject in the country.
What to expect from a one day tour in an Elephant Sanctuary or Park? Choosing the right park and camp for a visit is probably the most important. Do your research and book with an eligible tour agency. Decide upon visiting a park that doesn’t offer elephant riding or show performances.
read more: Elephant Conservation in Chiang Mai Viator – A TripAdvisor Company (US) or
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Usually, a tour will include complimentary transport and pick up from your hotel as well as a park photographer. Although many people enjoy taking photographs especially of the wildlife by themselves this time, since the tour includes a lot of playing in the mud and water, it would be a much better idea to let yourself go and have more fun leaving the experienced photographer to take astonishing pictures of your once in a lifetime experience. In that way, you’ll be more focused on your time with the elephants and the best thing about it is that’s included in the price of the ticket. You’ll feel even better knowing that your money will go for the protection of the elephants and their well-being.
As I already mentioned you can expect to have thrilling moments with elephants for a day or two depending on your tour. You can have a walk with elephants, the usual one that they have, then have a bath in the river after playing in the mud, or prepare the food and feed them. And of course, you shouldn’t expect less than to be served traditional delicious Thai lunch. The only thing you’ll have to worry about is which swimsuit should you wear. Bring a few more clothes though, to change and some more in case you have to change again.
read more: Elephant Feeding and Care Tour in Phuket
Viator – A TripAdvisor Company (US) or
Viator – A TripAdvisor Company UK