Elephant Nature Park Dog Volunteer – Chiang Mai, Thailand

DSC00977

I am writing this from New Zealand, where we have been living in a campervan for almost two weeks (with another two weeks to go), touring the South Island. Things are going great, and I often think back to the week we spent in at the Elephant Nature Park in March. This refuge for elephants (and dogs and cats and buffalo!) is located in the hills of northern Thailand, about one and a half hours from the city of Chiang Mai.

Alison and I arrived in Chiang Mai with the intention to stay one night at the Elephant Nature Park (ENP) and then another three or four nights in town. We heard of ENP through our friend Tanya, who had volunteered there for a full week. There are a LOT of elephant-based tourist activities in Thailand and your need to be really careful to make sure you are supporting one that is treating the animals properly and had the right intention. From what I learned in Thailand, most of them ARE NOT TREATING THE ANIMALS WELL.

ENP is different. They only use positive reinforcement with the animals, they do not use cruel metal hooks to control the elephants, they feed them well (some might say too well, there are some heavy elephants there!) and they give them adequate rest and space away from tourists.

I remember seeing Tanya’s photos on Facebook about her trip over a year ago and thought that if I ever make it to Thailand I would need to go. Well, here I am!

We wanted to volunteer for a full week, but there wasn’t any space available. They only had room for overnight guests. Overnight guests pay a bit more, but don’t do much work and instead just enjoy being with the elephants. We were bummed we only had one night to spend at the park, but were excited nonetheless.

To get to ENP we caught a park-run shuttle with other guests from Chiang Mai. On the shuttle we met a fellow – Ron – who has visited the park many times and filled us in on all the background behind the park and also the fact that they shelter almost 500 dogs that have been injured or abandoned. He said that they have a volunteer program (week-long) for the dog shelter, and that they almost always have room for extras. Alison and I immediately looked at each other with hope that we would get to stay longer than a day.

We arrived at the park, and after a quick orientation, met Darick, partner to Lek Chailert who created the ENP. He gave us the option of staying and helping with the dogs and we immediately accepted the offer! What a great decision. We both missed our pups, Duke and Spike, who are being cared for while we are travelling, and since we didn’t have any onward flights booked from Chiang Mai, could make the spur of the moment choice to stay another week.

The ENP Dog Volunteering program is awesome. You work hard in the hot Thai sun – walking dogs, cleaning kennels, removing ticks, caring for sick or injured animals – but you also get to SPEND ALL DAY WITH AMAZING DOGS WHILE ELEPHANTS AND BUFFALO ROAM ALL AROUND YOU!!!

It is no stretch of the imagination that the week I spent at ENP is the highlight of my entire world travels so far. I fell in love with so many dogs, and learned A LOT about how to care for and be with dogs that really need our help.

This experience also reminded me that we need to take better care of animals, particularly ones that depend on us for their lives.

It’s no surprise to say that Alison and I both left the ENP vegans. We were both already vegetarian (no meat or fish, but we did eat eggs and dairy) but decided to take this additional step. For me, having been vegan for over 10 years until 2011, this experience was a wake up call that animals need our help. Nobody else is going to do the work for us, we have to.

If you are going to Thailand, please do pay the Elephant Nature Park a visit. Stop by the Dog Rescue shelter (about five minutes walk from the Elephant viewing platform) and give the pups some your love and attention. Better yet, spend a whole week there as a volunteer. It is not expensive at all (in fact, the price is so low it will blow you mind). The food is amazing (and all vegetarian). The accommodations are comfortably (though not luxurious) and the setting is picture-perfect with rolling green hills. Oh yes, and there are ELEPHANTS EVERYWHERE!

Also, if you are thinking about getting a dog, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE ADOPT A DOG IN NEED. Luckily, at ENP they do not practice euthanasia (killing of dogs) unless the dog is very very sick or badly injured (and even then, they go to extreme lengths to avoid euthanasia). They go out of their way to give their dogs healthy lives. But in many countries, dogs that are not adoted are killed. If you want to get a dog, do you really need that pure-bred Lab/Boxer/Poodle/Labrdoodle/etc???? Can you get the vision of the “perfect dog” out of your head and just go to a shelter and adopt (or find someone who has a dog they can’t keep)? Please do. Do not support dog breeders. In my view buying a pure-bred is just like killing a shelter dog. It’s no joke.

Scroll down for pictures of adorable pups!

– Ravi

My fellow volunteers for the week.
My fellow volunteers for the week. Oh yeah, and an elephant! 🙂
There were a large number of puppies at the shelter. Many were abandoned or rescued from bad conditions. This is the "puppy pen" and they get a lot of attention here.
There were a large number of puppies at the shelter. Many were abandoned or rescued from bad conditions. This is the “puppy pen” and they get a lot of attention here.

Alison being greeted!

Every dog has a name. This one is lovingly named "Fat Dog" :)
Every dog has a name. This one is lovingly named “Fat Dog” 🙂

DSC01005

This is "Kanji". She stole our hearts while she was being treated in the clinic.  We would need to coax her every day to get out of her pen to go for walks. Once she healed up, she was returned to her kennel with her other friends and was fine.
This is “Kanji”. She stole our hearts while she was being treated in the clinic. We would need to coax her every day to get out of her pen to go for walks. Once she healed up, she was returned to her kennel with her other friends and was fine.
The view of a kennel and the lush mountains in the background.
The view of a kennel and the lush mountains in the background.
DSC00951
This is my daily routine…after working all day I return to our volunteer house for about 30 minutes to relax on the front porch. Ayo will then promptly find her way up on my lap for a pet and a nap!
This is "Ayo". She is almost two years old and had a leg amputated after a bad accident. She is very very friendly and doesn't let the missing leg stop her! She hops all over the place, including up and down stairs.
This is “Ayo”. She is almost two years old and had a leg amputated after a bad accident. She is very very friendly and doesn’t let the missing leg stop her! She hops all over the place, including up and down stairs.

DSC00776 DSC00779

DSC00763
This is the house where the dog volunteers stay, along with about a dozen dogs that hang out on the porch and under the house.
DSC00760
This is “Mo-Man” taking a nap. He has a heart condition (with no known cure) and is also missing an eye. He has a ton of character and all the dog volunteers cared a lot about him. The ENP staff do their best to provide him with a comfortable life given his condition.

DSC00773

DSC00789
With almost 500 dogs, there are dozens of large kennels. This is the view from one section of kennels…looking out to a large grazing area where buffalo wander. These buffalo were rescued from a meat factory. Elephants also hang out in this field.

DSC00791 DSC00804

DSC00810
We would often walk dogs around this field, and this very very large water buffalo would frequent a muddy spot in the middle!

DSC00858

DSC00860
There was a full vertinary clinic where injured or sick dogs were cared for. This was “Mali” and she was getting treatment from bite wounds due to a tustle with another dog in her kennel. She healed just fine. All the clinic dogs in small kennels were walked three times a day, fed twice a day and got plenty of attention from volunteers and staff. We also cleaned their pens out twice a day.

DSC00873 DSC00889 DSC00915

DSC00959
An example of a row of kennels. Each would contain 2-3 or even a dozen dogs or more, depending on the size of the kennel. Each kennel had many dog sleeping areas, platforms for running and standing, tubs of fresh water for swimming/drinking and shaded and sunny areas.
DSC00954
At the far end of this path was the house where dog volunteers stayed. On either side were multiple kennels.
Advertisements

6 thoughts on “Elephant Nature Park Dog Volunteer – Chiang Mai, Thailand

  1. Hi,

    I just got back from ENP as a dog volunteer and it was amazing. FYI Mo Man sadly passed away last week. RIP friend.

  2. Great blog and photos!
    We’ll be spending 3- weeks dog volunteering at the park thus December – can’t wait!
    (btw, we adopted a sweet pup on our first visit doing Ele volunteering – she’s settled into her new home nicely)

  3. Hello RAVI AND ALISON, I am so happy that you wrote this blog, I am Sylvie, we met in the shuttle from chiang mai, do you remember ? i had an overnight at ENP and wanted to stay like you..When i read your blog, I think I should have stay with you…but i ll go back ENP for sure just the problem is to book early…In june I go as volunnter to Elephant world, a bit same style because no place at ENP…but next year for APRIL i go at ENP for sure !!! My best wishes, your are very nice couple…

  4. These photos made me feel all emotional and gave me watery eyes. We were there last year, we supposed to stay for a week only but ended up staying for four at the end, we simply couldn’t leave these amazing dogs. I can recognize some of them on your photos, but there are so many I’d love to have news of or at least know how they are doing. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s