Hang Chat, Thailand

If you love elephants then you must visit the Elephant Conversation Center at Hang Chat. You can watch them perform after being washed in a pond. You can also feed them, ride them and give them a hug.

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1 Elephant Crossing Sign in Hang Chat, Thailand

When you drive up to the Elephant Conservation Center at Hang Chat in the Lampang Province of Thailand, you laugh when you see this yellow caution sign with the silhouette of an elephant crossing the road. But you soon realize it is serious because the National Elephant Institute cares for about 50 Asian elephants and many of them are frequently walking along the dirt roads.

2031 Thai Elephant Conservation Center, Tambon Wiang Tan, Amphoe Hang Chat, Lampang 52190, Thailand
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2 Male and Female Asian Elephants Walking in Hang Chat, Thailand

This profile of a male and female Asian elephant walking along a road provides a good look at their size difference. The shoulder height of a bull ranges from 6.5 to 11.5 feet and they weight from 4,000 to 11,000 pounds. The female Indian elephant is considerably smaller and has no tusk or a very short one.

2031 Thai Elephant Conservation Center, Tambon Wiang Tan, Amphoe Hang Chat, Lampang 52190, Thailand
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3 Profile of Female Asian Elephant in Hang Chat, Thailand

This Asian elephant is just one of the fifty at the Elephant Conservation Center. They also house six of the king’s 10 white elephants at the Royal Stable. This government-owned facility provides a host of management, medical, research, and training services. Their mission also includes helping to conserve the 2,000 to 3,000 elephants still living free in Thailand’s forests. This is about 10% of the world’s wild population of this endangered species.

2031 Thai Elephant Conservation Center, Tambon Wiang Tan, Amphoe Hang Chat, Lampang 52190, Thailand
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4 Little Boy Holding Elephant Trunk in Hang Chat, Thailand

The elephants at the Elephant Conservation Center are true gentle giants who seem to enjoy being photographed, fed and pet by tourists and they especially like being hugged by children like this little boy. Notice the long muscular trunk. It contains over 40,000 muscles that allow them to pick up very small objects with the dexterity of a finger or they can push down a large tree.

2031 Thai Elephant Conservation Center, Tambon Wiang Tan, Amphoe Hang Chat, Lampang 52190, Thailand
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5 Mahout Riding Elephant in Water in Hang Chat, Thailand

This man on a bull Asian elephant is called a mahout. These caretakers often enter their family’s profession as a youngster and are assigned a specific animal for life. The stick he is holding is called an ankuśa. On the end is a sharp metal hook that is used to goad the elephant in the ear or head to correct or change behavior.

2031 Thai Elephant Conservation Center, Tambon Wiang Tan, Amphoe Hang Chat, Lampang 52190, Thailand
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6 Mahouts Bathing Elephants in Pond in Hang Chat, Thailand

Twice a day the elephants at the Elephant Conservation Center in northern Thailand are led by their mahouts or professional keepers towards a pond where they are bathed and cooled off. Notice how the men seem relaxed on the backs of these giant animals yet the women are desperately holding on. That is because they are part of a homestay program where you are taught to care for an elephant for a few days. On day one, it is very easy to fall off your swimming elephant.

2031 Thai Elephant Conservation Center, Tambon Wiang Tan, Amphoe Hang Chat, Lampang 52190, Thailand
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7 Elephant Painting in Hang Chat, Thailand

The Elephant Conservation Center in Hang Chat, Thailand, taught elephants how to paint in 1997. It is amazing to watch these enormous animals gently curl their trunk around a brush while skillfully creating a self-portrait. Many of the paintings are surprisingly good. The artwork is sold in a nearby gift shop and then rolled up into a paper tube that is manufactured onsite from dung.

2031 Thai Elephant Conservation Center, Tambon Wiang Tan, Amphoe Hang Chat, Lampang 52190, Thailand
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8 Baby Elephant in Nursery in Hang Chat, Thailand

The Thai Elephant Conservation Center has an excellent nursery that cares for pregnant females, aids them with birthing and then overseas the raising of the calf until it is weaned at three years old. Their veterinarians also adopt injured or abandoned baby elephants from the wild plus have successfully developed Asia’s only artificial insemination program. Imagine being pregnant for 22 months and then delivering a 200 pound, three foot baby.

2031 Thai Elephant Conservation Center, Tambon Wiang Tan, Amphoe Hang Chat, Lampang 52190, Thailand
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9 Tourists Riding Elephant in Water in Hang Chat, Thailand

When these tourists were not waving for the camera, they were grabbing the sides of the bench called a howdah as the elephant swayed back and forth during a ride through a forest and stream. It is estimated that half of the 2,700 domestic elephants in Thailand are used for tourism to fund the elephant centers. The other half is still used as draft animals by farmers and loggers.

2031 Thai Elephant Conservation Center, Tambon Wiang Tan, Amphoe Hang Chat, Lampang 52190, Thailand
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10 Riding Elephants Along Forest Road in Hang Chat, Thailand

Until major roads were built in Thailand, the two primary means of transportation were the boat on rivers or the elephant on dirt paths through the dense forest. The Asian elephant has also been historically revered by Thai villagers for their brute strength in farming and logging, as carriages for warriors in battle, and as a symbolic guardian at Buddhist temples.

2031 Thai Elephant Conservation Center, Tambon Wiang Tan, Amphoe Hang Chat, Lampang 52190, Thailand
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