The week at Elephant Nature Park was eye opening to say the least. The hours drive to the mountains was filled with a graphic video about spirit-breaking in elephants and the taboo side of elephants in tourism. Videos showed the ‘crush’ and 'pujaan’, the process of breaking an animal down to the point where it loses all will power and sense of being. The elephant is separated from its mother before it has even stopped breast feeding and subjected to torture. Caged in a tiny bamboo cube it is stabbed, hit and screamed at with no food or water for what can be weeks until exhausted, bleeding and broken it bows to a life as a slave- constantly being exposed to pain as a reminder of the consequences of not following orders.
For animals with such a complex emotional range- similar to a humans, this age old ritual is one that elephant nature park aims to slowly change. It was founded by Lek, a tiny woman from the local hill tribe who has devoted her life to providing these worked elephants with sanctuary from the brutality they know.
With 44 elephant, 200 dogs and 400 cats, the park is a sanctuary of unprecedented scale, funded by volunteers and donations from across the globe. The aim is to raise awareness and educate the owners, providing alternative ways of working the animals or making a living alongside them.