DHAKA: Despite of being one of the most densely populated countries in the world, Bangladesh has one dwindling population -- the Asian elephant – is facing conservation obstacles.
In present, only 300 wild elephants are surviving in the country amid decline threat and danger.
Experts sited lack of awareness over elephant conservation here as people are not aware about the matter. However, a few are calling for a protected area for these gentle giants.
A recent survey showed that the main challenge in this regard is to convince those who think that there have been many previous incidents of human deaths and crop damage occurred for the wild elephants here.
However, experts opined that these problems happen due to lack of their habitats and food scarcity as the forest become shrieked day by day. But, still there is hope.
On the other hand, only 2,500 km away from Bangladesh, just outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand, Elephant Nature Park has been a beacon for animal welfare and conservation activities.
The park was founded by Chailert in 1995. She has made great strides in the country as it relates to elephant conservation and bettering the lives of those in local villages.
She has helped to source local staff, as well as local goods and services to fuel the park.
Today, the park is not only a place for these elephants to live their lives free from torture and abuse, but also an example to the rest of the world that wildlife conservation can help sustains communities.
Currently, Chailert, who has been around elephants her entire life, is helping educate surrounding countries in regards to protecting their elephant populations and sharing her successful model of working with local villages to show that animal conservation and people can go hand-in-hand.
She has received numerous awards and recognition, including being named as one of Time magazine’s “Asia’s Heroes” and Outstanding Woman of Thailand in 2008.
Later this year, ENP is set to expand to Cambodia, where they are ready to begin their own conservation work. Cambodia doesn’t have to be the only other country to take the lead from Thailand and Chailert.
Other countries, like Bangladesh, can join the charge to and become leaders in helping preserve the elephants.
Every day, wild baby elephants are captured and taken away from their mothers (who are often killed) and forced to undergo a torturous training ritual to domesticate them, the phajaan.
The practice, which is an accepted part of culture in Thailand, essentially crushes the elephants’ soul via brutal beating. At the end of the ritual, the elephants are ready to be placed in trekking camps to give rides, perform tricks, play sports, paint and more.
Unlike these camps dotted throughout the country, ENP offers a different experience to the tourists. People visit ENP to simply spend time with the animals in their natural environment. During a visit, guests are able to feed and bathe them.
Opportunities to visit the park include day and overnight trips, as well as a volunteer experience where people can spend one or two weeks at the park, helping not only to care for the elephants, but also providing park maintenance and more (12,000 baht, including six nights lodging and three meals daily).
And while the progress to educate the public in Thailand the world is slow, it is being done. In 2011, the park welcomed more than 2,000 volunteers. This year, the park is on track to surpass that number.
BDST: 1207 HRS, JUL 22, 2012
Edited by: Maria Salam, Asst Output Editor
Writers: Diana Edelman travel writer
Farzana Hossain Nipu, student of Chiang Mai University, Thailand
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