In Thailand, elephant tourism used to be a major business. Now that tourism is gone because of the pandemic, elephants are leaving the “sanctuaries” where they used to entertain tourists all year round. And so, hundreds of elephants are returning to the villages where their owners come from.
These elephants are now in danger of survival… So used to life in captivity, they can’t survive by themselves in the wild. We learned about the situation, and word came that a couple of elephants that used to work in a sanctuary in Kanchanaburi had returned to a village not far from Sangkhlaburi.
And so, we decided to contribute as we could, going to visit these majestic creatures and supporting them with a donation to their mahouts – the elephant keepers.
Meeting Noamujee and Noatumee
We drove to a nearby village, and then ventured into the jungle. This was an adventure in itself!
We had to cross bamboo bridges, pass through a river…
We had been walking for about half an hour, when we heard a deep, incredibly vibrating sound. Our eyes lit up, on alert, scanning the forest around us.
Suddenly, a huge shape appeared…
Immense in the thick jungle, an elephant was coming towards us…
The vision took our breath away.
The moment you see an elephant for the first time, it’s a moment you will never forget for the rest of your life.
Words cannot describe the emotion of being face to face with such a beautiful, gentle giant…
We quickly became friends. The children fed the elephants, which, as we learned, eat an average of 300 kg of vegetable food every day!
Noamujee, the bigger of the two, is 28 years old, while Noatumee, the smaller, is her grandmother, and she is 57 years old. We came to know that Noamujee’s mother had passed away, probably being poisoned.
Taking care of elephants is traditionally a family business in Thailand, passed on through the generations. And so it is also in the case of Noatumee and Noamujee, which have been with the same family for decades.
After getting acquainted, we all went down to the river!
Nonetheless, these majestic creatures have been deprived of it, as they were brought to live in the sanctuaries.
We could feel that both of them had this longing, this desire to meet each other again. There was a magnetism between the big great animal and the little children.
The children had this instinctive need to be close, and the elephants loved them. Seeing the children and the elephants together, it felt as if a piece of DNA was missing, and now it clicked together again.
It has been such an important experience for the children, but we realized that it was so important for the elephants too!
It was indeed a re-encounter, as until about ten years ago there were many elephants around Sangkhlaburi. And so, to meet the elephants again it was the right of our children, that are, naturally, the children of the jungle.
It was… Elephant therapy!
There is a mutual language between these animals and the children, and they are re-discovering it now together. They feel that what they had lost… it has come back to them.
They love to search for nature’s hidden treasures. They love to go finding vegetables in the jungle, that’s where they belong, and they instinctively know the roots, grasses, tubers and leaves that they can collect or not.
Our children came to us when they were small, and yet they know all this! Sometimes they amaze us… They know not because they saw, but because… simply, they just know.
Therefore, it was only natural that our children and these wonderful, majestic creatures would meet, and connect, again.