An exhilarating day spent with the elephants, cared for elephants at B.M.P Elephant Care Project in Chang Mai, an incredible experience I will hold dear to my heart for always.
BMP has a young photographer who would take many pictures of us throughout the day, credit to this young man for his photography talent. They post all their pictures on facebook and allow visitors to use the images without any extra cost. Generous!
Elephants are incredible creatures, large in stature, gentle in nature and intelligent like life. I would be driven to the B.M.P. Elephant Care Project with a young couple from California and we would spend the day together with our guide, James.
He would spend the day telling us all about the care of elephants, who they were, where they came from and why they do what they do. The biggest elephant in the herd was the mama bear, and her little peanut was actually named “peanut”. The mama has two tits just like a human and little peanut feeds as often as a baby would, every chance she can get. There would be no males as part of this pack, only woman and they all seemed to get along just fine. James would tell us that not that long ago a baby orphan would joint the pack, she is the one a little bigger than peanut, they would feed her soy milk with LARGE baby bottles until she would learn to eat for herself. The orphan would be adopted by the mama and allow her to nurse periodically, as James likes to tell the story, only when tourists are around because she wants to safe face and look like a good mama elephant.
We would each get an entire bag of bananas to feed to the elephants, with peanut the peel needed to be peeled away, she, like most babies she was fussy. The elephants would greet us with excitement and happiness knowing exactly what was going to happen next, they were going to get some treats! They would bring their trunks right into my face, digging their trunks into the bag, on my body and sniffing me with the very end of their trunks leaving a trail of wetness in its wake. The knew what was in our bags.
We would then feed the elephants an armful of sharp, thick grass that had already been cut and waiting for our arrival. The elephants would take a trunk full and wave it around prior to putting it in their mouths. It reminded me of the Thai people who, after you purchase something, wave it around touching anything in sight for good luck. It seemed to me the elephants had learned about luck. What I would come to know is that the flies and bugs would still be in the grass and the elephants shake it off to rid the delicious green grass of any critters before shovelling it into their mouths. Such intelligence.
To get enough water to hydrate their enormous bodies they would drink from a hose inserted into their mouth and guzzle as the water poured down their throats! Peanut just inserted her trunk into mama’s mouth and slurped up the overflow, so precious.
We would feed them sugar cane from a concrete balcony so the elephant’s head would be level with our bodies, mama would come over the let her trunk do the exploring, she would take as many pieces as she could, hold in her trunk and then use the “fingers” at the end of her trunk to separate the pieces, choose which ones she wanted before tossing them into her mouth and biting down hard making a loud crunching sound. Elephants have two rows of teeth just like humans set way back in their mouths crushing anything that comes into contact with large, powerful ivories.
We would be invited to a wonderful Thai lunch all prepared for us, vegetarian, absolutely amazing along with hot tea and cold water. We would then walk up an enormous flight of stairs followed by a steep incline to come upon an orchard where the elephants like to graze, eating grass and leaves from the trees. The two handlers, (mahout) that spent the day with us would talk to these animals and the elephants would listen. There had been some issues in the past with the owner of the orchard and the elephants eating his fruit, the mahouts would tell them no and they would listen. It was fascinating to watch. It was easy to see these two young men loved their jobs and treated these animals with such love, care and respect, it seemed they were accepted as part of the pack.
We would learn how to make a special herbal remedy for the elephants mixing the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, turmeric, sugar cane, salt, husks then turn the mixture into balls that we would then feed to the elephants by shouting “Mah” which indicate to the elephants open their mouths rather than take it with their trunk, they devoured the balls without even tasting them. James would tell us a story of one of the elephants that lived in the sanctuary took ill and had some tummy issues, he would tell us that this elephant would go up into the jungle, seek out the herbs she needed to calm her aching belly followed by some red dirt and fixed her own problems. Intelligence.
Next we would head over to a mountainous hole dug out for the elephants to play in the red mud, the handlers would turn on the hose and the elephants would go crazy throwing trunk full after trunk full of delicious mud all over their bodies, they would rub up against the side of the cavernous hole and try to eat whatever they could bite from the side of the mountain. They seemed to love it. We would be encouraged to pick up handfuls of mud and rub it all over their bodies and heads, again the elephants would come right up close and put their heads against my body looking for the mud to be rubbed onto their head. I laughed like a child as the elephants came right up close to me and rubbed their heads on my body, throwing mud around like children, wearing the spray on my clothes, my face and in my hair. It was exhilarating!
Next we would meet the elephants in the pool and go for a swim with them. They would lay down and stretch out while we took scrub brushes to their course skin and gave them, what I could only imagine, a wonderful massage. They would play with one another in the water. Humans and Elephants playing in the water together, it was incredible. The mahout would have me come over and the elephant would lift me right out of the water with his trunk, I squealed like a child. The elephant would give kisses with the tip of her trunk and allow me to hold her trunk like I would my own child.
Two Americans and one Canadian absolutely enamoured by the beautiful day we had just experienced. Thank you Bailey, Greyson, James and the elephant pack for the wonderful day!
As the journey inward continues to unfold, I realize that animals are a special part of this journey and have taken a special place in my heart right from the beginning. Dogs, monkeys, sloths and elephants have all been part of my journey. Animals are intuitive creatures who just know without all the mind chatter that most humans carry around with them day after day. It always feels refreshing and a new light shines within my soul each time I have an experience that involves animals, especially ones that have been taken from environments and cruelty or injustice has been served! In this case with the elephants, they have been given a second chance at a life; while it might not perfect and completely natural it is as close as they can hope to get to a real life, living in a pack and being elephants.
Jodi Picoult is my favorite author, when she writes I often find myself …
One of my favorite books she has written is call Leaving Time, a beautiful story about a mother and daughter filled to capacity with elephant lore that explores elephant behaviour in packs and their relationships with one another, her research goes into great depth and detail about these large pachyderms with death and dying. It is a fascinating read as are all of her books. If elephants interest you I would highly recommend this delightful read.