One of our day trips from Chiang Mai was a visit to the Thai Elephant Conservation Center, near Lampang. Elephants were widely used in Thailand’s logging industry until the government banned logging in their national forests in 1989. While this was a great step forward for conservation, it put a large number of working elephants out of a job. Many were then abandoned, because it’s pretty expensive to feed an elephant that’s not earning its keep any longer. Camps like the Conservation Center were established to care for these elephants who were unable to survive on their own in the wild after relying on humans for their whole lives.
Unlike some camps that are essentially tourist traps and may not treat their animals well, the Conservation Center is a government-sponsored organization that conducts research and provides medical care for elephants all over Thailand. It was easy to see that the staff at the camp really love the elephants under their care. Having the opportunity to get so close to these amazing animals and even play with them made this one of the most memorable days of my life. And yes, I do have seriously soft spot for elephants.