FINALLY! Time to recap my very favorite part of our entire trip and quite possibly my entire life. As soon as we left Patara Elephant Farm I told Robert that it was one of my top 5 favorite life experiences. I keep a running list of the Top 5 and so far 4 slots are filled; Getting married, getting engaged, getting Renly and Patara in no particular order. Currently I am reserving the 5th spot for the birth of our future children but if I ever get to go back to Patara they may be edged out, sorry future offspring.
I love elephants and knew that they had to be part of our trip to Thailand, but I had mixed feelings about the ethics of some of the elephant experiences. I did A LOT of research and Patara was the obvious choice for us based on everything I read. After having been I still stand behind that 100%.
When we arrived at Patara we spent some time with the owners son who educated us about Patara’s history and the fate of elephants in Thailand. He explained that the owners of Patara founded it with conservation and re-population as it’s main objectives. The elephant population in Thailand has been steadily declining over many years and there are now believed to be less than 2,000 wild elephants. Patara’s philosophy “extinction is forever” was derived from this data and their main goal is to breed healthy elephants. Patara believes in humane breeding (letting it happen naturally rather than forced or artificial insemination) and to date they have had 40 calves born there!
He acknowledged that some people believe it is inhumane to visit elephant camps and that it would indeed be nice if all elephants could live freely and safely in the wild. Unfortunately, this isn’t reality in today’s world. Deforestation means the wild as elephants once knew it doesn’t exist anymore and poachers make it unsafe. The elephants that are safe behind the walls of these huge camps and natural preserves cost lots of money to keep fed and cared for. Tourism is Thailand’s biggest industry and visiting a humane elephant camp is a way to directly contribute your tourist dollars to the cause. For more information about elephant conservation in Thailand, read this.
OK! Now on to the day! We chose the “Elephant Owner for a Day” package which began bright and early with transportation to the farm provided by Patara. We were picked up in a very nice passenger van with great AC and complimentary bottled water. The van picked up one other passenger, a kind women from Atlanta who was traveling solo through Thailand. The drive took about 2 hours up some very steep climbs and our little group of four found ourselves literally in the middle of the jungle.
As soon as we stepped out of the van we were greeted by a beautiful mama elephant, Manoui and her adorable 9 month old, Baby Hanna.