I dropped back into Chiang Mai for a few days to renew my visa. Turns out the office isn’t open on a Bhuddist Holiday, so I took the opportunity to visit some elephants.
Tourist/Elephant interactions have a bad reputation, so I did my research and went to a no-ride retirement home for ex-working elephants. Thailand banned elephant labour years ago which has left the animals in a kind of limbo, as they are still legally livestock. As they don’t produce milk, meat, wool, leather or eggs, they are just curiosities now.
Asian elephants are smaller than their African cousins, but have larger heads and are much smarter. We got an opportunity to prepare their food and feed them. Elephants definitely have favourite foods, they were crazy for soya milk (even to the extent of stealing it from each other). After that, they like sweetcorn (without the leaves), bananas, lemongrass (stripped from the stalks), and sugar cane.
We had seven elephants of various sizes. The smaller ones were accepting individual bananas and chopped sugar cane, but that was wasted on the large matriarchs. The big grandmother was chomping through bunches of cane by herself, and relieved me of a bunch of forty bananas in one mouthful.
The baby was my favourite, a one year old about three feet high. We made friends and kept playfully trying to headbutt me. I played along and he pushed me into a ditch. It turns out he weighs over two hundred kilos.
The other elephants were really calm and docile though. You make way for them to wander around but it’s not necessary as I didn’t see them push a human being all day. They have a habit of reaching into pockets though, watch your wallets and cameras.