32 New Things: Touch An Elephant


Some of the best parts about traveling the world? Doing awesome things like touching elephants.
This is me, looking amazed the first time I fed an elephant.

 

In case you were wondering, baby elephants rolling around in mud are exactly as cute as you’d expect them to be.And feeding elephants? Awesome.

And being kissed by one?

Slightly wet, a little bit sticky, a lot fantastic.

And I can tell you all of these things because I spent one phenomenal day at The Elephant Nature Park outside of Chiang Mai.

The Elephant Nature Park is totally, totally magical. The park provides a safe haven for elephants that have been rescued from horrible situations. There is the elephant that was hit by a car when she was working with her handler on the streets of Chiang Mai; the elephant that stepped on a landmine along the border; the elephant that broke her leg while working in the logging industry; the elephant that was blinded by abusive handlers when she wouldn’t work because her baby died. But now they live here!

And they get to eat delicious fruit! And they each get their own basket!

As you probably know, elephants are incredibly intelligent, sensitive, social animals. It was amazing (and super cute) to hear our guide talk about each elephant’s personality and how different social groups formed among the 35 rescued animals. ‘Jungle Boy’ was “very smart and handsome and ready to look for a girlfriend.” Hilariously, there was even an elephant love triangle – Jungle Boy was totally into the lady elephant that had been hit by a car, but she wasn’t having it and would head down to the river whenever he came around. But her BFF? Totally into Jungle Boy! Drama, drama.



In addition to rescuing injured or abused elephants, The Elephant Nature Park works to restore surrounding rain forest areas and provides employment to Burmese refugees (who are trained to work one-on-one with the elephants). And! You can volunteer with them! If you do, will you email me pictures so I can weep with envy? Have you ever touched an elephant? Or any other super cool animals? I touched a wallaby and a koala while doing ubiquitous Australian tourist stuff. Last week I saw (but didn’t touch) a pet civet that drank coca-cola!

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27 Comments

Jeanni

I've ridden an elephant at a circus a couple times, it was GREAT! I love elephants, they're my favorite animal. I got to pet its leg, but no elephant kisses for me yet 🙁

I've also ridden a camel and petted it. I did get a kiss from it, pretty sloppy.

I've also gotten to pet a llama, a giraffe (completely against the rules, but it stuck its neck out over the fence so I snuck in a pet!), and a chinchilla that my cousin has. The chinchilla totally freaked me out, it was like a really big rat!

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Autumn

You got to feed an elephant! You are so lucky! I have ridden a camel before. It was really cool, not to mention REALLY HIGH. I have fed llamas, bison, elk, some sort of funny deer, and stared at a blind mountain lion before. (Who purred at me. PURRED.) I'm afraid of monkeys, so I have skipped chances to feed one, although I would love to work with gorillas!

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Lexie

I snuck in a pet of a baby white tiger at Marine World when I was a teenager. One of my favorite memories! It was sooooo soft!

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Angie.

Elephants are my obsession! I can't say I've ever touched another cool animal, but I would love to someday visit an elephant park too!

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Jessika

I rode on a camel while travelling in the middle east. After an hour every muscle in my body ached.

Once had a lemur come sit on my lap but then only to learn that all it had come for was the fig I had in my hand ;).

I adore half-monkeys that are night-active (well half monkeys by in large ARE night active) and I'd like to hold a one but they seem too djungly to treat as a pet for people to hold.
In Japan I, vERY sadly, an owl sitting outside a pet store. Being for sale.

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Emily

I rode an elephant at a zoo once as a little kid. And my family owns a llama. :3

I think my favorite was petting rays at Six Flags. They're soooo squishy-soft!

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Jess P

I just showed this to the students and they did that "OOOOHHHHH" thing that they do. Moo Ah said (in regards to the picture of the elephant kiss) "Happy Valentines, Teacher Sarah!"
Also-totally in love with this organization.

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Kelsi

So cool! I love everything about that second photo (especially your hair!).

I've always wanted to pet an ocelot. I live in the Midwest and there are ZERO ocelots, but I thought about saving up for a safari tour at the San Diego Zoo, because I hear you can pet some of the animals that way.

One of my friends has a pet flying squirrel that I played with briefly. I also pet a hedgehog once, which was odd. I've touched the rays at Sea World, I've held various snakes and tarantulas and hissing cockroaches… but definitely never anything like an elephant!

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Princess and the Pea

I have ridden an elephant with my legs tucked behind her prickly ears (also at an elephant resuce place in Chiang Mai but not sure if it's the same one). One of the most amazing experiences of my life – others include feeding elephants, washing elephants, feeding monkeys, being kissed by a seal, taking blood from a turtle (bit like getting blood from a rock!) and calving a cow! All animal related funnily enough!

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Rachael

My little sister worked at a zoo and got to hang out with the elephants and feed them and stuff, and said it's a lot like working with very big, kind of dangerous five-year-olds. Once when she had had fed them their favorite treat (squash!), one of them got mad that they were out, so she sucked up all the juice left in the bucket and squirted it all over my sister's head. I am jealous of both of you!

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Jaylyn

Volunteering with elephants, working up close, has always been on my life-long list of things to do. Thanks for posting this, such a fun time! 🙂

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Belly B

I've ridden an elephant when I was young and I remembered how their skin felt hairy and rough, not like how I imagined at all! But it was still a really fun experience. They might just be the most friendly-looking animal ever 🙂

Belly B
http://www.bforbel.com

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nova

I'm so happy to hear that those abused animals were given a second chance to live a happy life! Seriously, who blinds an elephant? And why?

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Kate

I am so effing jealous right now I think I'm actually going to cry. Thank you thank you thank you, Sarah Von. <3

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NoviceWorldTraveler

I rode an elephant in Sri Lanka and at the end, I gave her some bananas and got to hug her trunk (but no kiss). The next day, my butt was SOOOOOOO sore!! I have also ridden camels on several occasions (I live in the Middle East) and I love those guys! I've swum with sting rays in the Caribbean and a huge tortoise in Sri Lanka. I've had pythons draped on my shoulders in Thailand and Sri Lanka.

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LynnieBee

AWESOME!!!! *envy*!

I got to feed and pet giraffes once 🙂 Their mouths are very gentle and delicate, it actually tickled my hands 🙂

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Nicole

When I was a stupid teenager I broke into the circus at night and fed the elephants. I got gaught by a "carnie" who yelled at me and said it could have killed me. I think she liked me though. It was incredibly stupid but one of the best moments of my life! Elephants are so amazing. I love your picture of the elephant giving you a kiss. xx

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Kate @ lovelornunicorn.com

What an amazing photo where it's kissing you, total moment of win!

When I was eleven I got lifted up in an elephants trunk on a trip to thailand, last year I held a baby alligator and the year before that I touched red pandas!

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Anonymous

I have pictures of me petting cheetahs in South Africa. They are surprisingly really rough, not as soft as I thought their fur would be!

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