By Emily Southwell – 1 week volunteer
I always knew I wanted to see elephants in their natural habitat and have the opportunity to be up close with them in an ethical way. When I found Kindred Elephant Sanctuary, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to do this. I could contribute to returning elephants back to the forest, see them in their natural habitat and immerse in a completely different culture and I couldn’t have made a better decision to do so.
The first hike to the elephants was very challenging and extremely sweaty! I was feeling excited but also apprehensive about meeting these giant animals for the first time, especially after hearing about how hyper little Gen Thong could be! I finally heard the trumpeting of the elephants in the distance and my initial reaction was fear, but, I couldn’t have been proven more wrong. I crossed the river and was greeted by Boon Rott before any other elephant. He was calm and waited as I stood there trying to get the bananas out of my bag. The whole time he made me feel at ease and for my first experience with these massive yet extremely majestic animals, I don’t think I could have been greeted by a better elephant. We were then greeted by Mae Doom, Too Mae and Gen Thong. Gen Thong was being his naughty little self, acting like the toddler that he is. I have felt the most scared of Gen Thong over the hikes, but I have realised that the elephants are in the best hands with the mahouts and that I am not at any risk with Gen Thong, or any of the elephants for that matter.
Every single hike has been different, some have been more difficult than others (mainly the rainy ones!) but they are worth every second to get to the elephants and watch them roaming around in their natural habitat, completely content. The elephants have amazed me, they have opened my eyes to the similarity of their behaviours to humans; from Gen Thong and his attachment to his auntie Mae Doom to the romance between Boon Rott and Mae Doom and I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to see this in such an ethical environment. Most importantly, getting the opportunity to see these behaviours has made me recognize even more how much these animals feel emotion like humans do. This emphasizes how much they shouldn’t be treated any differently to humans and therefore what an incredible job Kindred Elephant Sanctuary are doing.
I know that I will take this experience away with me for the rest of my life and couldn’t have picked a better organization to have the experience with. This will definitely not be my last visit to Kindred Elephant Sanctuary.