Book Review
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Book Review

Book Review: by Lang Reid

Elephants - Living in Sanctuary

The elephant in Thailand is a sacred animal, and yet, so many live in awful circumstances. For a foreigner, elephants are a mystical animal, seen from afar in zoos and there is no opportunity to touch one, or even look deeply into those large brown eyes. My first encounter with Thai elephants was in 1975, driving along Sukhumvit Road and seeing an elephant walking along the grass verge on the other side. U-turns never seem to be frequent and it was about 10 minutes before I could turn round and hasten back to the area where I had seen ‘my’ elephant. I was awed. It was amused and showed me a repertoire of tricks. From that day on, elephants were special to me as well.

I saw this latest book Elephants Living in Sanctuary (ISBN 978-974-04-1799-6, Elephant Nature Park, second edition 2009) on the shelves at Bookazine and I was immediately attracted. The cover photograph of the interaction between the two elephants bathing is just so appealing, I had to take it for review.

The sanctuary referred to in the title is the Elephant Nature Park (www. elephantnaturefoundation.org) which is run and was founded 17 years ago by a small Thai lady Sangduen (Lek) Chailert. The park was created to look after the elephants, with the pachyderm population becoming smaller every year as mankind has encroached upon their natural habitat. In her own words, Lek states, “My grandfather had an elephant to help him with farming chores. Thongkhum (golden one) was his name and he was like a member of the family. I’ve loved them ever since. Their keen family bonds, individual personalities and kindness are only part of the reason. It takes a stone heart for those lucky enough to work with elephants not to love them. I’d like you to come to see my elephants. You’ll see for yourself then.”

When asked what inspired her to start the elephant project, she said, “I had been helping owners of other small camps to find unemployed elephants (ex logging). During this time I saw the poor conditions that they lived under, the cruelty and suffering and felt I could provide a better place for them. This was one of the main reasons why Elephant Nature Park came into existence.”

Lek Chailert has taken the photographs for this book, and they are excellent, technically as well as showing the nature of these animals. Their play and interaction is fascinating, and the book introduces the reader to many of the animals in the park, and explains a little of their background, and how they were treated before coming to the sanctuary. In some cases, the elephants had been frightfully abused, with one having been blinded by a resentful mahout, for whom the elephant refused to work.

The book is hard cover, with glossy full-bleed photographs and comprehensive descriptions with each illustrative plate. It is a book you will enjoy to thumb through many, many times. A book you will show your grandchildren, and at B. 1,200 is an inexpensive literary reference book. The proceeds go towards maintenance of the elephants.