Baby Elephant Throws Herself Into A Rushing River To Save A Friend She Thinks Is Drowning


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Who rescued who? In the case of one rescue elephant, the answer is, a little of both. A young elephant from a sanctuary in Thailand made news around the world when she did a little rescuing of her own.

A Little Bit About Kham La

A baby elephant is enjoying a mud bath and a beautiful day at the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand
Image: Instagram

Five-year-old elephant Kham La has seen a lot in her short life. She started life working with her mother, Mai Sai Ngern, at an elephant trekking camp in Kanchanaburi. Then, as often happens with young elephants being trained for the tourist industry, her captors separated her from her mother. Then they put her through the brutal “breaking spirits” program.

Elephant Abuse is Real, and it’s Terrible

The purpose of the “breaking spirits” program is to train these magnificent, intelligent creatures to submit to humans. First, the elephant “trainers” confine the babies in small crates, like the ones used for factory farming pigs. Then they tie their feet with ropes and stretch their growing limbs. They also beat the babies with hooks and metal rods. Also, they starve them, stab them in the head with bullhooks, shout at them, and pull their ears. If that’s not enough, they slash at their skin and wrap them in chains.

These barbaric actions serve no purpose except to intimidate and hurt. To break the elephants’ spirits so that they will submit to their captors. This sort of training is common in the elephant tourism industry across the world. However, this story takes place in Thailand. Moreover, the BBC reports that Thailand uses twice as many elephants in its tourism industry as other countries.

 

A map showing Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Burma, and Laos, with the Elephant Nature Park marked in red.
Chiang Mai (red) is the location of the Elephant Nature Park sanctuary, where Kham La lives.Image: Public Domain, by the Central Intelligence Agency, via Wikimedia Commons

Elephants Have Human-Level Intelligence

Two elephants hug trunks at Elephant Nature Park in Thailand
Image: Instagram

Elephants are intelligent and sensitive animals. Scientists believe that, like humans, they have empathy — that is, the ability to visualize themselves in someone else’s place. Their societies have intricate patterns of communication and cooperation. And their measured intelligence is similar to that of humans and dolphins. Elephants also have a similar emotional complexity to humans. They have demonstrated that they feel love, grief, joy, and fear.

If a human had spent their life being tortured by another species, how do you think they would have reacted upon seeing a member of that species drowning? Fortunately, Pha Lam thought differently.

But Back to Our Story

After her torturous training, Kham La went on to work at a circus. Fortunately, she eventually found her way to the Elephant Nature Park sanctuary. And who should she find there, waiting? Her mother, Mai Sai Ngern! The staff at Elephant Nature Park reunited the mother and daughter, gave Kham La medical care, and introduced the baby to the sanctuary’s herd.

One of Elephant Nature Park’s employees, Derrick, developed a relationship with Kham La. But all the elephants seem to love him. You can see in this video how, when Derrick calls Kham La; all the elephants come running to meet him.

Some have called him the Elephant Whisperer. But he and Kham La seem to have something special. And when you hear what happened, you’ll know what it means when they say an elephant never forgets.

The Daring Rescue

One day, Kham La saw something terrible — Derrick was in the river running through the sanctuary. And the rough water was sweeping him away! With no thought to her safety, this brave baby elephant threw herself into the water to rescue him! Fortunately, Derrick made his way to shore safely, but Kham La was nearby the entire time, making sure he was safe.

As you can see from the video at the end, Derrick doesn’t look like he’s in any actual danger. But Kham La wasn’t taking any chances. He called to her, and she came to help him. What a brave, selfless act!

About Elephant Nature Park

A happy elephant family at Elephant Nature Park in Thailand
Image: Instagram

Kham La lives in the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand. However, the organization has numerous facilities all across Asia. These include Thailand, Cambodia, and Myanmar.

Elephant Nature Park is a rescue organization that helps not only elephants, but also buffalo, cats, dogs, and other abused animals. The parks are open to the public, and provide opportunities to help and learn about the rescued animals, and also about conservation. You can feed the elephants, walk the dogs, go whitewater rafting, and more. You can visit the parks for part of a day, a full day, or even for several days.

Also, the parks host overnight “sleepover” packages, for people who want a unique and intimate experience.

How You Can Help

The most important thing you can do to help elephants is to avoid elephant tourism. The reason the tourism industry put babies like Kham La through torturous training is because people pay a lot of money to ride elephants, take pictures with them, and watch them do tricks. If no one wants to pay for interacting with tortured elephants, then there will be no money to be made from torturing them.

If you’re going to be in Thailand, why not enjoy a visit to Kham La’s sanctuary instead? You can observe these beautiful and intelligent animals, knowing that they are happy, well treated, and live naturally. Also, your admission fees will pay to keep them that way.

An elephant herd enjoying a peaceful morning at Elephant Nature Park in Thailand
Image: Instagram

If you’re looking for a more serious commitment, Elephant Nature Park has both employment and volunteer opportunities available. If you’re planning a trip to Thailand, why not make it a working vacation, and help the elephants?

Finally, if you can’t make it to Thailand, you can donate money to help Kham La directly, by going here.

You can also follow Elephant Nature Park on their Instagram.

And finally, watch the video of Kham La’s daring rescue below!

Featured Image: CC BY-SA 2.0, by Ryan Harvey, via Flickr

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