By Luciana Selmi Dei – 1 week volunteer
This trip was not planned, it was thought to be a more urban trip, with my suitcase packed with high heels, clutches and summer dresses for dinner nights. And beach clothes, certainly. Nothing could have been more inappropriate to what was waiting for me in Thailand this time.
I had been here before on vacations, back in 2002, when I had a beautiful love affair with a baby elephant walking by Khaosan Road – yes, you read it right. A baby elephant was walking around the narrow streets of Khaosan night market with his Mahout – who carried baskets of fruits which we, silly tourists, paid for gaining the right to feed the big lovely baby in front of us.
Well, as a person against Zoos, I was cheerful for seeing a “free animal”. In my view, that would certainly be better than being caged, or locked in a small barn waiting for next morning’s working day with tourists back riding. I did buy the basket of fruits, fed the big baby and took a photo – a photo which for years I was cumbersome about its meaning.
Now, sixteen years after, I am back in Thailand with my suitcase. I was reluctant of going back to Khaosan and find my baby elephant turned into an adult big beggar through the streets. I was afraid of seeing street dogs still begging for food and attention.
But I couldn’t be more wrong! Laws were put in place to protect wildlife and people became so conscious about animal welfare that everybody to whom I’ve spoken to mentioned being relieved for this significant change. No elephants around, nor any type of animal exploitation. And this time, I left Bangkok to Chiang Mai with a different feeling than 16 years ago.
I found myself then surrounded by questions on what has changed and was looking for answers. NGO’s, government, individuals, who is responsible for this amazing evolution in what concerns animal protection? I was searching for answers through my channels tied to ethical tourism, and I learnt of many projects focused on animal protection, one of these is KSES.
In the next hour I was emailing Kerri, their cofounder and on the next day I was wondering who needs high heels if you are joining as volunteer in a sanctuary of rescued elephants?
Dropping a useless suitcase in the hotel and getting me safari trousers, a pair of socks, a rainy coat that’s all I needed. On the very next morning me and 5 others, jumped on a 7-hour truck from Chiang Mai to the Karen village where I am at. Supporting projects like this, focused at welfare and animal protection is the least I could do. These are the people who have changed the mind set of many, who fought for animal freedom and for their welfare.
I won’t be able to find where my baby elephant is, his destiny and where he is now, but whatever I can do to keep his/her relatives to places like this, I will do. KSES has my full support.