The elephant sanctuary in Phuket, Thailand is the joy you need in your life

Elephant cruelty is unfathomable, but it happens every day. Thailand attracts millions of tourists each year, many of whom pay a fee to ride an elephant for the perfect Instagram snapshot. What isn’t always visible to the eye is that these elephants spirits have been broken beginning when they were baby elephants snatched away from their mamas. The calves are then trained to obey humans, confined to tiny spaces, beaten, starved and sleep deprived. The elephants are then overworked until they die in old age.

The Phuket Elephant Sanctuary co-founded by Louise Rogerson is the last chance of peace some elephants will receive. Located in Phuket, Thailand, the 30-acre sanctuary is the first of its kind in the city. Once the founders are alerted to an elephant in need of rescue they negotiate and buy it from its owners. It’s a retirement home of sorts for rescued elephants to roam freely. No more work, no saddles with humans on their backs, no more abuse. Just a quiet home to spend its final days.

In the short time since its opening last year, the sanctuary has acquired five elephants — three of which were rescued in December. CNN reports that the elephants are free to roam throughout the day. At night they sleep in large shelters that measure 28 meters x 12 meters.

But the elephants aren’t free from human contact despite its no riding policy. The sanctuary offers half-day tours where people are allowed to walk with the elephants and feed them for 3000 Baht per adult, 1,500 Baht for children 10 and under and free for children three and younger. The tours aim to educate too, which is why every tour includes a video of the inhumane practice of phajaan, or “crush,” that is used to break the elephants spirit.

From the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary website:

PHUKET ELEPHANT SANCTUARY was founded through a partnership with Mr Montri Todtane, a Phuket elephant camp owner, world-renowned elephant rescuer and conservationist Lek Chailert, founder of Save Elephant Foundation, and Louise Rogerson, founder of EARS Asia.This groundbreaking project is in line with Lek Chailert’s highly successful Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, and will mirror the highest of standards in welfare; retiring, rehoming and rehabilitating elephants that have formerly worked in the logging and trekking industries.Lek has been campaigning tirelessly for over ten years to invite elephant riding camp owners to embrace change through Save Elephant Foundation’s ‘Saddle Off’ program. Step by step, giant strides are being made as more and more camp owners contact Elephant Nature Park to learn about ethical tourism alternatives and sustainable programs.

The sanctuary has already attracted its first celebrity guest when Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul visited last November. His visit brought a lot of international attention to which Rogerson hopes will raise awareness on the treatment of elephants.

“What amazes me is that we have taken in these elephants, some in their 60s, which have spent their entire life in cruel servitude to man, and they have recovered so quickly,” Rogerson told CNN. “Elephants are emotional animals, they feel happiness, sadness and show love, and here we allow them to be themselves again, unafraid.”