By Kate Good
In Thailand, Asian elephants are a major draw for the tourism industry. Elephants are taken from the wild and sold into ”camps” where they are forced to work nonstop giving tourists rides, performing tricks and even in some cases giving massages to paying customers. In order to render wild elephants docile enough to perform all these feats, elephant trainers subject young calves to a six month “breaking period.” During this time, the baby elephant is shackled, beaten and abused by humans until they lose their will to fight back.
Sadly, this is precisely what happened to little Me-Bai. When she was only three-years-old, Me-Bai was torn from her mother’s side and sent to trekking camp for “training.” After enduring this brutal process, the young elephant was rented out for rides by her caretaker. Because Me-Bai was so young and likely distraught, she began to lose weight and was no longer able to carry tourists. Luckily, rather than discarding youth elephant, her caretaker sought the help of Elephant Nature Park.
With the help of Elephant Nature Park’s founder, Lek Chailert, Me-Bai was retired from the trekking business and enrolled in their “Pamper a Pachyderm” program. This amazing program takes in former trekking elephants and helps transition them into life at the sanctuary.
Me-Bai was nervous and wary of people when she first arrived at the sanctuary, but she quickly learned that her new caretakers had no intention of abusing her in any way.
As Me-Bai adjusted, Chailert started her search for this young elephant’s mother, Mae Yui, and discovered that she had been sent to another trekking camp nearby. Chailert managed to find the family who was holding Me-Bai’s mother and invited them to the sanctuary to learn about the “Pamper a Pachyderm” program.
In an amazing turn of fate, Mae Yui’s owners agreed to retire her from trekking. Now, Mae Yui’s owners and Elephant Nature Park are working together to rehabilitate Mae Yui and Me-Bai so that they can return to the wild and live free.
With the help of Elephant Nature Park volunteers, Me-Bai is now on her way to the village where her mother has been living for the past three years. Although a significant amount of time has passed since these two have seen one another, an elephant never forgets!
We are so pleased that this tragic story will have a happy ending, and both Me-Bai and Mae Yui will finally get the chance to return to their rightful home.
Good luck, Me-Bai and Mae Yui!