For The Love Of Elephants, Boon Lott Elephant Sanctuary
Since I was a little girl, I always dreamed of visiting Thailand and riding an elephant. Then when I got older, I learned of the horrible treatment of elephants that endure emotional and physical trauma being broken in to ride tourists on their back, perform in shows, paint pictures, give massages and other humiliating things to make money for their owners. Today, many tourist spots in Thailand are getting away from riding elephants and turning into ‘sanctuaries’, where tourists can learn about the conservation of elephants and have a deeper understanding of just how intelligent and emotionally connected these pachyderms truly are. Not all elephant conservation places are the same, but honestly, it is a step in the right direction.
I discovered Boon Lott Elephant Sanctuary in Sukhothai, Thailand on Facebook. A friend of mine shared one of their videos and I knew immediately I had to visit. Katherine Connor, owner of Boon Lott Elephant Sanctuary created a safe haven for retired and rescued elephants, nestled in 750 acres of beautiful lush land in Sukhothai. There is a tree house, a medical area, gift shop, dining area and three guest houses that accommodate only 6 people in total. Katherine wishes to keep groups small and intimate to enjoy the elephants in their natural environment. Too many visitors would not be best for the elephants. Boon Lott Elephant Sanctuary was inpired by the small and precious life of a baby elephant, Boon Lott. I encourage everyone to visit her website and read her amazing journey about little Boon Lott and how one little elephant changed the course of Katherine’s life, and the lives of elephants today.
Each elephant has their own mahout, a person who works with and tends to an elephant. The mahouts at Boon Lott Elephant Sanctuary are a rare and wonderful kind, they do not use bullhooks. Katherine has introduced this compassionate method to the Thailand elephant community and this kind way of handling elephants is catching on in the country. The mahouts at Boon Lott Elephant Sanctuary are highly regarded in the community and changing the way we handle elephants. Katherine believes elephants should simply live as elephants in the most natural way possible and be treated with respect, compassion and kindness. So remember, when visiting Thailand or any part of Asia, be sure to support compassionate, responsible elephant sanctuaries that do not encourage elephant rides or entertainment of any kind. It may appear that the elephant is happy, but we can assure you, it is not. Change happens when we take action. Elephants are highly intelligent and emotional beings. There sense of family and community are no different than our own. They deserve our protection and above all, respect.
When you come to Boon Lott Elephant Sanctuary, no day is ever the same. Every morning begins with a wonderful breakfast (all meals served are vegetarian) followed by a morning walk with the elephants.
After a wonderful morning walking with the elephants and just being in their energy and observing their grace, we enjoy a tasty Thai lunch that is prepared for us. Sometimes we eat in a treehouse overlooking the elephants and beautiful surroundings. One must sit back and soak it all in. It is breathtaking and for me, will be seered in my memory forever.
While staying through the week, we had a new adventure each day. The locals work with Katherine to help the elephants with treats such as banana leaf palms and sugar cane. When a harvest does not pass for inspection to sell on the market, instead of wasting the plant, it is cut down for delicious treats for the elephants. On another day, we gathered fruit for the elephants as a way of saying ‘thank you’ for their presence. It was a wonderful way to see the community and be among the locals. While I was in the market, I picked up some herbs to take home to America. The smells, the sights, the beauty of a rural town in Thailand is truly a blessing to behold. The warmth and kindness from the Thai people is something I will cherish forever, as well as the elephants.
One thing I highly recommend is a Thai cooking class that is sometimes available at Boon Lott Elephant Sanctuary. It is a wonderful evening of friends gathering to help prepare a delicious Thai meal and it truly was a magnificent experience. You really feel a part of a family and there is nothing more wonderful than the joy of freshly cooked food and good conversation among new friends.
Leaving the sanctuary after a soul altering experience with elephants was indeed emotional for me. I loved Katherine Connor and all she stood for, I fell in love with elephants I got to know personally by name, I felt the warmth and kindness of the Thai people, I felt the energy of Buddhism and all its blessings. So how do I leave? How do I hop on a plane, after such a peaceful experience and go back to America? America, full of bad news on every channel, gun violence, people at odds politically and spiritually and all the senseless “noise”? Well, I had to hold the peace in my heart, in my spirit. The memories I now have with these amazing souls, human and elephant, (dogs, cats, monkeys, boars and a crocodile named Jerry too) will stay with me forever. The playfulness of Meechok, the young bull, the grace of Boon Thong, the old sweet girl who needed supplements rolled in sticky rice and the gentleness of the mahouts, Katherine and her family will stay with me, always. I definitly came back to America a changed person, determined to be a better person and a healthier one too!
Healthwise, I am no longer on my thyroid medicine and am more active and eating cleaner than I ever have. I am learning new ways to choose vegetarian options too. But more importantly, I will never forget those elephants. I will be their voice and if I get the opportunity to educate someone else who may have that same childhood dream as myself, the desire to ‘go to Asia and ride an elephant’, I can share with them my experience and how there are humane ways to be in the presence of these intelligent, emotional beings.
Boon Lott Elephant Sanctuary has a website and a Facebook page. To book a stay with them in Thailand be sure to visit their website. They book out way in advance so be sure to secure your stay in advance and contact Katherine through email. It truly will be the trip of a lifetime! There are also tips on how to prepare for the trip such as bringing non deet spray and cool, breathable clothes.
I would like to thank Katherine Connor and all the staff at Boon Lott Elephant Sanctuary for taking such great care of us and teaching us the magnificence of the elephants. Katherine and her kindness and devotion to these sacred animals is truly a blessing to this planet. A baby elephant named Boon Lott came into Katherine Connor’s life and shifted her destiny to be a voice for the Asian elephant and change the way they are handled and cared for in Thailand. She has inspired everyone who has met her and continues her work to see to it that all elephants get their dignity, love and respect they so much deserve; that their suffering will someday end and each compassionate step, makes a difference.
The world may be in its own need of rescue. We see so much turmoil these days in our world, here in America and abroad. Remember among violence, there is peace, with pain and suffering, comes healing and compassion. Create your joy and find an area in your own world that needs your service. Helping an animal, the environment, a community, another human being will make an energy shift on this planet. Every good deed counts, every act of kindness matters. Find your service, planet Earth needs everyone to do so.
For Katherine, that baby elephant’s life mattered, and because of that single act of kindness and compassion, other elephants have been rescued. Katherine is changing the consciousness of how we treat elephants. So my advice after such a soul moving trip is simple: Keep peace within you and share your compassionate and grateful heart with the world. Katherine did, and we should too.
June 27, 2019
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