It seems that everyone nowadays is looking for happiness: how to become ánd stay happy. But how do people around the world define happiness actually? And how high do they rate their own happiness level? Are there any tips or tricks to achieve happiness? We are curious to find out how happiness is perceived by people we meet during our travels. In this series of interviews, we like to share their insights and offer you their key to true happiness.
A visit to Chiang Mai is not complete without spending a day in an elephant sanctuary. But since there are so many, it is hard to choose which one to go to. After some research, we chose for Chang Thai Heritage, a small project with just four elephants. At this sanctuary, you are a mahout (elephant caretaker) for one day. You will learn how to communicate with the elephants, how to understand their behaviour, make them organic medicine and – the most fun part – bath them in the river. The four elephants are saved from the circus and from back riding with tourists. Tu and his team dedicate their lives to make the best of the lives of the elephants, which is why we wanted to find out more about how we – as tourists – can make an elephant happy 🙂
Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself? My name is Tu. My father worked for the forestry department and my mom is a house wife. Since I was young, my father and I head up to the mountains many times in the weekend to see how elephants are living in the forest and how they were used for elephant logging.
What does happiness mean to you? For me happiness means doing a job that I love.
What makes you happy? To tell people how to save the environment, trees and – last but not least – the elephants. I believe we still have space to jointly live together.
When are elephants happy? Elephants are happy when they eat yummy food and feel safe. This is why me and my team at Chang Thai Heritage rescue elephants from hard work and the circus, and free them from animal unfriendly environments. We don’t want to see elephants dancing around, being hit and treated like prisoners. Two of the domesticated elephants were previously used for back riding are now full time at the heritage, and the owners are paid to stall them here. I hope we can save more elephants in the future, so they can live in their natural environment. Chang Thai Heritage is a peaceful & secure home for elephants where they are free from abusive work.
How can we see if an elephant is happy? You know an elephant is happy when they flap their big ears, stand still and make some sound with their trunk!
How can we improve the life of elephants?
1. Let them live in the jungle, where they belong. However, because of deforestation there is less space for the elephants to live and because of the use of pesticides by farmers, there is not enough healthy food available. We provide a safe home for the elephants were they can live in their natural habitat and eat organic food. Since elephants are not so friendly for the trees – they use them as a scratching stick – we wrap rubber around the trees to protect them from getting damaged. Another natural way to protect the trees is to get an abstract from a plant elephants don’t like and to spray it on the young trees, so they have a chance to grow. When the trees grow bigger, they can provide shadow for the elephants.
2. Tourists can save elephants by visiting elephant camps that provide a good environment for the elephants and where professionals take care of them. If you find it difficult to choose a good camp, then check if they provide organic food for the elephants and if a quality mahout plus veterinarian takes care of them.
What advice would you give to tourists who want to interact with elephants? The best way to have contact with elephants is as if you were their mahout. You will learn how they behave, what they like and dislike, how to make them feel safe, how to make them organic food and medicine and how to save yourself. Since they are so big it’s also important to know that 🙂
What are the future plans for Chang Thai Heritage? We have a lot of plans for the future, so we can save more elephants and provide them a happy place to live. But we are dependent on the help from volunteers, income from people visiting us and donations, so that influences how soon we can realize our plans. The top priority for now is:
1. Make a defence for the elephant pavilion, so they are free. Because the two big elephants can reach the roof and like to eat it, we need to make a defence, so we will still have a roof over our heads. 🙂
2. Invest in a solar panel that provides power for the camp.
3. Buy a webcam which we can put on a central point in the camp so people can follow us on the website and see how we take care of the elephants, the trees and the environment. Also, one of the elephants is pregnant, so if we have the webcam in time, we may broadcast the delivery of the little one!
How can people contribute to Chang Thai Heritage? People can visit us or stay for a longer period as a volunteer. Please visit our website http://www.changthaiheritage.com/ or contact me directly via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. If people would like to support Chang Thai Heritage, they can donate via Paypal Changthaiheritage or transfer money to Krungthai bank, account name Changthaiheritage, a/c number 540-0-28110-9.