Save Elephants, Earn Karma, Win Big

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Cruelty, First Hand

Early last year, Nomadic American and I made a trip to Thailand and Cambodia to escape the bitter cold of a Nanjing winter and soak in two cultures that I’ve long found fascinating.

As our time in Thailand came to a close, we decided to take a day long ‘adventure tour’ that would feature white water rafting, cycling, and (I’m ashamed to admit) the token elephant ride that seems to have become an integral part of any visit to South East Asia.

At the time I had some awareness of the animal cruelty that went on in Thailand, but put it at the back of my mind as I tried my best to balance experiencing Thailand without spending a small fortune in the process.

I won’t go into a detailed review of the day here, but suffice to say we both regretted our decision to partake in the elephant riding portion of our tour. As we moved slowly alongside the river atop this majestic, beautiful animal; Heather openly wept at the way the handlers seemed to take pleasure in randomly beating the elephants.

Having grown up in rural NSW, I’ve seen my fair share of animal cruelty, but even I had to flinch at the way the handlers seemed to enjoy breaking bamboo sticks over the trunk of our well behaved mount. One of them, a chain smoking, scrawny man of ancient age and mean spirit, laughed aloud every time he belted the poor creature.

It was a jarring experience. It was one thing to hear about animal cruelty and think “Oh, but that’s just a travel horror story” and another thing to see it first hand and realize that all those stories we’d read and heard about the horrendous ways in which the beautiful animals are ‘trained’ were also true.

The beautiful elephants frolicking at the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand. Photo by TravelFREAK.
The beautiful elephants frolicking at the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand. Photo by TravelFREAK.

But what could we do?

In hindsight, we could have chosen to take part in a tour that did not feature an elephant ride and the associated cruelty. At the end of the day, though, simply choosing not to do something didn’t feel like enough.

When Jeremy of TravelFREAK contacted me about getting involved in the Travel Blogging Calendar project again and told me about the plan to raise money for the Save Elephant Foundation, I immediately jumped on board. Here was a way I could both raise awareness of the situation and make a meaningful contribution to the cause.

Unlike last year, where two dozen of us bared our supple skin for charity, this year we decided to attack things from a different angle.

How? Read on…

Save Elephants, Earn Karma, Win Big

Obviously, by raising awareness we hope that people will feel moved to donate to this fantastic charity. Doing so not only helps the cause, but gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling you get from doing something right simply because it’s what should be done.

But we’re not asking you to do that. Far from it. Instead, we’re offering donators the opportunity to win a trip to Thailand valued at $3,300! That includes a $2000 flight voucher from Flight Network and a $1,300, week long eco-friendly tour from Ian at Where Sidewalks End.

Your donation – whether $20 or $500 – buys you ‘tickets’ in the raffle and the opportunity to win this fantastic prize. If you thought seeing me staring pensively out over the Pacific Ocean was a good deal, you’re going to love this.

Look at how pensive I am!
Look at how pensive I am!

But… it’s a Travel Blogging Calendar

Oh, ye of little faith. Of course there’s still a calender!

Last year we put together a physical calendar and found the overhead costs + the amount of time needed to put a physical thing together and get it out to people was time consuming and meant less money we could pass on to our charity.

This year, rather than a clunky paper calendar (who uses paper these days?) we’ve gone down a different route with a digital calendar in the form of a weekly blog available only to donators.

This high tech calender doesn’t just tell you the days of the week, instead it gives you the opportunity to do a bit of travel from the comfort and safety of your desktop.

Each of our contributing bloggers has put together a short article about an interesting, fascinating, or downright strange holiday that’s taking place somewhere in the world. Accompanying this entry is a gorgeous travel shot from some exotic location – allowing you to do a little vicarious adventuring without even having to put on pants. Bonus!

I’m in! How do I donate/sign-up/enter!

I’m glad you asked! Head on over to the Travel Blogging Calendar website to sign up, donate, get your weekly calender, and get yourself in the running to win that sweet $3,300 trip to Thailand.

Take that $20 you were going to spend on a few beers or a video game from Steam or that shirt you’ve had your eye on, and invest it into a good cause, some vicarious travel, and the opportunity to win a friggin’ awesome trip to one of the most beautiful countries on earth.

You’d be crazy not to.

I can’t afford It! How can I help?

Strapped for cash and can’t afford to donate right now? There are two ways you can help this project:

  1. Vote with your wallet: The next time you’re in Thailand or any country in which animals are being exploited, choose not to to tour with a company that encourages such cruel behavior.
  2. Share this! Get the word out there. Share this post on Facebook or on Twitter so that others can learn more about it!
Jeremy of TravelFREAK does his part at the Elephant Nature Park.
Jeremy of TravelFREAK does his part at the Elephant Nature Park.

About the Save Elephant Foundation

Save Elephant Foundation is a Thai non–profit organization (founded by Sangduen “Lek” Chailert ) dedicated to providing care and assistance to Thailand’s captive elephant population through a multifaceted approach involving local community outreach, rescue and rehabilitation programs, and educational ecotourism operations. Each of our flagship projects is aimed at accomplishing that mission, as well as working towards these goals: 

– to expand self-sustaining eco-tourism operations that benefit local communities and ecosystems
– to better incorporate our efforts into local communities
– to become a leader in the field of Asian elephant research through academic outreach and education programs
– to create practical, positive reinforcement based elephant training and rehabilitation programs
– to establish an international volunteer community that raises awareness to issues facing the Asian elephant
– to more fully integrate with the global conservation community to facilitate dynamic cross-cultural networking

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5 comments

  1. This broke my heart just reading it. I went to the circus last year and was totally mortified at how they treated the animals and vowed to never visit anything that exploits animals like that again. I’m totally checking out your links and seeing what I can do to help!

  2. Great post Chris! The SEF is such a superb initiative I wish the TBC all the best in raising much needed funds and awareness.

  3. I’ve volunteered with ENP two years in a row now and have had an amazing volunteer experience each time! Hope you guys can make it there one day as well!

  4. I’m going volunteering there this year and am very excited! And I am so proud of a second year of the Travel Blogging Calendar!

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