Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thailand, elephants enjoy ancient relationship

Splish-splash, I was takin' a bath - but it wasn't on a Saturday night ... (with apologies to Bobby Darin!)

It was actually a Wednesday afternoon, and as they do every day right after lunch at the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre, the mahouts had their elephants down at the river for their daily bath/water-fight.

At least, it sure looked like a water-fight. And everyone seemed to be having a good time.

Although Thais and elephants have a long-standing relationship dating back to the ancient kings of Siam, for many of the elephants at the centre, life was not always so hunky-dory. In recent times, most of them worked in the Thai logging industry at some point, but when the Thai government shut down most commercial logging operations several years ago, the elephants and their mahouts were out of work. Rather than sell them off to private owners or worse, cull them, the government set up this centre to keep them working, happy and healthy.

Every day, they show off their skills (painting, playing music, etc.) to visitors in the morning, then take their baths in the afternoon.

The centre is home about 50 elephants, and as well as providing homes for them, it also runs an elephant hospital on-site and has a mobile elephant clinic that travels the country to help heal injured or sick elephants.

As the elephants finished their bath, they formed up in formation to march up the road in single file. You could almost hear them singing, "Oh, the aim of our patrol..."

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