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Chang Thai National Thai Elephant Day, March 13 2002

Take shower It is not unexpected that most Thai people hold the Elephant in such high esteem and reverence. When one takes a map and looks at the geographic boundaries of present day Thailand, it takes little imagination to realize that the country is shaped like an elephant's head and trunk. The head rests here in the North, the ears flare back to Esarn in the East and the trunk drapes down to Haad Yai in the deep South. Thailand is to the elephant as the elephant is to Thailand connected to each other traditionally, emotionally, symbolically, regally and Royally.

To honor this most gentle, yet powerful, of animals the National Thai Elephant Day is being hosted at the Maesa Elephant Camp (10kms along the Mae RimSamoeng Road) on 13th March. Admission to the Camp (from 12 noon onwards) is FREE so this will be a day for Thais, and visitors to meet and fall in love (again!) with that most noble of creatures the Elephant.

Traditionally and historically, the elephant has had a long association with Thailand. It's strength, power, ponderous dignity and majesty has ensured it a special place in the hearts of Thai Kings for many centuries. Even today, H.M. King Bhumibol has a stable of Royal Elephants. A white Elephant is especially sacred and auspicious. When one is found, it immediately becomes the property of the reigning Monarch. Long ago, when Thai Kings waged war against invading enemies, it was the elephant which provided the "heavy" war equipment. Elephants were the battlewagons and tanks of the day from which, aloft the elephants neck, the King (or Noble) could see and engage the enemy.

Trekking with ElephantsIn more recent times during the last century, elephants were engaged in the extraction of heavy teaklogs from the forests. These were working elephants and they were sent into forest areas where machines would cause too much devastation. For all of its ponderous size, and elephant is very surefooted and surprisingly dainty and swift of step. A mature, working elephant can readily lift 700kgs weight or haul a towton log for one kilometer without a break. To have an elephant work in a disciplined fashion requires years of training. This begins when a baby elephant is 3 years old and sent to school (a visit to the Young Elephant Training Centre at Haang Chatt District, experience). The young elephant is introduced to his, or her, "bosses" an experienced mahout and his apprentice. Both will be bonded with the elephant for as long as life permits and will be totally responsible for the elephant's training, future work schedule and career. Not only will they train and work with their charge, they will also play with their elephant because elephants love a bit of fun and can be quite mischievous.

Nowadays, with the Thai timber industry in decline, the friendly elephant is seeing more and more of the millions of visitors who visit Thailand each year. They have adjusted well to being the centre of tourist admiration they are happy to take the visitor for a ride a top that massive back or further afield on a trekking expedition. The elephant is happy to entertain by demonstrating how it used to work by hauling and stacking logs Elephants are "team" player in such operation. It is also a team player when a friendly game of soccer is arranged just see how nimble footed they can be! And, just to show how unabashed they are in public, the elephant is happy to entertain by taking a bath in the nude! Like any creature which gives its loyalty and devotion to humankind, the elephant loves affection and attention and gives the same in return to those who care for it.

On the downside, sometimes visitors will see unscrupulous humans exploiting elephants by making them beg for money in the streets of Chiangmai. Please do not innocently support such exploitation. It is not only against the laws of nature, it is against the laws of Thailand! Anyone seeing this exploitation should protest, in writing, to the Press, the Provincial Governor, the City Lord Mayor and, indeed, Thailand's Prime Minister Khun Taksin. These gentlemen have no wish to see elephants exploited by being forced to beg for money but catching the human culprits is not always easy.

Chaang Thai the National Elephant Day on 13th March at Maesa Elephant Camp is to honor, support and pay respect to this wonderful animal which is so much a part of Thailand's heritage and culture. At the Maesa Camp, there will be a kantoke feast for the elephants, traditional blessing ceremonies and Chiangmai University's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine will be presenting an exhibition on elephants and a display of those endearing baby elephants.

The Thai Elephant Warrior, Royal Pet. Workmate, Transporter and Entertainer a Friend worthy of the highest regard and respect. Do remember them on March 13 and try to get along to the Maesa Elephant Camp.

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