An Elephant Never Forgets


Girl Meets Elephant

I’ll never forget the moment I first met an elephant. A good friend and fellow blogger, Diana Edelman, had invited me to her job in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We got on a bus and made the windy drive to a lush camp in the Mae Taeng area. As we drove past the river, I looked to my left and saw a procession of elephants, making their way back to camp. Their proximity turned the beats of my heart up, and as we arrived at the park I struggled to contain my sheer childlike giddiness.

Feeling like a kid in a candy store, I was overwhelmed and couldn’t figure out which elephant I wanted to meet first. Diana took me over to a solitary female, Sri Prae. My palms were sweating as I advanced towards her; the red dust from the dirt she was throwing at her back leg diffused into the air and stained my palm. With much more trepidation than I can explain, I approached her slowly.

She stopped rubbing her back legs, stretching towards me with her trunk. Her powerful, weapon-like trunk which could toss me in the air like a rag doll at any time… I took it, assuming she was trying to shake my hand. With that gentle grace that these giant animals so naturally, she touched my hand again with her trunk and then touched the side of her swollen belly.
She did this again and again until this numb and dumb founded homo-sapien figured out what she was asking. “rub my belly” “scratch me”, she was saying. I indulged her, rubbing, pressing my hands into her side and feeling her thick skin beneath my fingers.

Tracing the wrinkles and folds of her flesh – which one would think would be nearly impenetrable – I felt the scars and pock marks covering her body, and watched as she ran her trunk along her left foot, which is more of a club. She dipped her head, reaching back for a rear leg now, giving me a chance to peer directly into her eyes. Instinctively I reached for her face, holding this massive orb between my two hands which felt so futile in this moment.

My reverie was broken by my need to know “Diana, what’s wrong with her?” Sri Prae, at 31 years old, sported more wounds than an army vet. Her front left foot was disfigured in a landmine accident, she slaved in the backbreaking field of illegal logging, and to top it all off she was then sold into forced breeding. When she was unable to conceive, Sri Prae was lucky enough to be rescued and brought to The Elephant Nature Park (ran by the Save Elephant Foundation) to live in peace in 2008.

lovely Lek and one of her many babies

lovely Lek and one of her many babies


The Situation

Few of us can forget the heart breaking moment of the Disney classic, Dumbo when the young elephant’s mother fights against her chains to be with her son. Watching his captive mother unable to bond with her young baby for the entertainment of the circus goers, there’s no doubt you felt as I did : horrified at the thought, angry with the captors and unable to comprehend how this could happen.

Unfortunately, this is a tame version of the horrific acts occurring against the Asian Elephants each and every day. If you would like to educate yourself about the process all elephants who work in the tourism field go through – the breaking of their spirit – watch this, be forewarned, it’s more than even I can handle. But, it’s not all bad news, and there is something YOU can do to help stop this madness.

I have banded together with the Travel Blogging Calendar (TBC) to create awareness on the subject of animal abuse but more importantly to remind you that the power is in YOUR hands. Edit : This contest is now over, but the issue of preservation of the Asian Elephants is not, so please read on!

By not visiting, supporting or partaking in activities abroad that promote, condone, or turn a blind eye to animal abuse you are helping to fight the currently dismal fate of Asia’s elephants.

timeless eyes

timeless eyes


This year the TBC has chosen the Save Elephant Foundation as the 2014 cause, and over 20 bloggers are working together to spread the word of hope, leveraging the power of the internet, human compassion, and social media to ensure this madness does not go on. What makes the Save Elephant Foundation so special, and why should you donate?

The Save Elephant Foundation is a non- profit organization ran by Lek Chailert. Lek is a Thai native (whose accolades and praise deserve their own post) who has dedicated her life to protecting animals of all varieties, educating those around her on alternative training methods, and whose zest and love for life is exuberant and contagious. She’s been internationally recognized as a pro-active leader, in being named one of Time magazine’s Hero of Asia. The Elephant Nature Park is the haven where she provides safety, security and dignity for these pachyderms.

Imagine after years – decades even – of slavery, humiliation, torture, to be brought to a paradasiac home; free to roam, to make friends, float freely along the river, weightless and worry free.

Unfortunately, the park is currently at full capacity and unable to rescue any additional animals without our support. Until the Save Elephant Foundation is able to buy more land, they cannot save even one more elephant. HELP!

Can You Help?

Join us in the fundraising efforts, and you will be entered to win a trip to meet the elephants face to face!

Flight Network has generously donated a $2000 voucher, and Where Sidewalks End has contributed an 8 days, 7 nights tour which includes transport, hotels, city tours and a trip to the Elephant Nature Park. No good deed goes unrewarded as every person who donates will be entered into the raffle and given the chance to get a taste of Thailand!


baby elephants hold hands at ENP

baby elephants hold hands at ENP



Your trust is tantamount to me, and asking you to part with your hard earned money is something I would not do unless I am 100% certain of where the funds are going, and how they are being used. Having met Lek and her outstanding staff several times-plus watching elephants eat an entire bunch of bananas in one go-both you and I can feel secure in knowing that the money is going to protect and preserve the future of Asian Elephants.

Donate Now, Here.

Sharing is Caring. Please leverage your power by spreading the word via social media — do it for the eles!

Brandy Bell loves adventuring around the world. She's been a solo female traveler since 2006 and has visited over 25 countries, made countless international friends, and now writes to inspire you to travel in a sustainable and responsible way.

'An Elephant Never Forgets' have 8 comments

  1. January 31, 2014 @ 3:12 pm Catherine

    Elephants are such beautiful animals, I have yet to meet one, but I love the story of your first encounter with one. I will definitely be more aware of animal cruelty issues in the future, thank you for sharing.


  2. May 25, 2014 @ 4:39 pm Brian Col

    These Tourist Elephant camps are all over Asia – some are run fairly decently others are really poorly managed.

    The mistreatment is obvious.

    Visitors rather than following the tour guide or queueing for a photo opportunity should just walk away from these badly run camps


    • October 16, 2014 @ 1:44 pm brandy bell

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Brian! yes, these camps are all too prevalent and downright awful. I agree, steer away from photos and use your consumer vote to choose wisely.
      Also, I checked out your site – phenomenal work & wonderful idea. I’ve bookmarked you 🙂


  3. June 7, 2014 @ 1:51 am Suki F

    I have always wanted to see elephants up front. I hope I can soon. Looks like a lot of fun!


    • October 16, 2014 @ 1:42 pm brandy bell

      Suki – you should absolutely go visit Elephant Nature Park! The entire experience from beginning to end is life changing. 🙂 It’s buckets of (river water) and fun!


  4. August 20, 2014 @ 5:38 am Muza-chan

    So cute…


  5. January 2, 2016 @ 9:51 pm William B.

    I’ll never forget riding an elephant for the first time. I was so scared! I was surprised at how much different they felt. Also, they were extremely smelly, but I didn’t hold it against them. Well written article, it makes me want to ride again!


    • January 2, 2016 @ 9:56 pm brandy bell

      Hi William, After you read the article you’re still looking forward to riding an elephant? I’m not sure you got the full point.
      The point is that riding elephants is wrong, and they should be respected and allowed to live out their lives as normal, and not as a commodity for us to exploit.
      I hope you take a look at information like this piece by National Geographic to learn more about why riding them is not the right thing to do.


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