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Saving giants

"It seems that the largest mammal on earth is invisible to men" Richard Lair

Thailand and elephants are two words that usually go together. Perhaps it is because they are the national symbol of the country, or perhaps because they are the main attraction for tourism. However, these wonderful creatures seem to be invisible to us. They are a variable in a network of money, tourism, industry ... A variable whose well-being we have always been ignored. Used for centuries as a tool for work, in recent years they have suffered the effects of technological advances and the growth of tourism in the country.

What could be seen as an opportunity for rest and well-being has meant a tremendous decrease in number getting them closer to the risk of extinction. Diseases, accidents and in general a lifestyle that not only has physical but also psychological consequences on these animals.

However, in such a worrying situation there are places where they are not invisible. There are places where they can have peace, dignity and where they can live together as equals with the humans who have done them so much damage for centuries. One of those few places is the Elephant Hospital in the province of Chiang Mai, Thailand. Around 20 elephants reside here permanently. All with different backgrounds but with something in common: The effects of human practices on their bodies.

It's 6 am and Palahdee is already awake. He eats something fast and walks the two meters that separate his house from Mosha's premises. Mosha is calling him, as she always does when Palahdee moves away from her sight. Palahdee approaches her, she calms down. He has been carer since she came to the hospital after losing a leg in a mine near the Burmese border. Cutting grass, cleaning the area, putting on her prosthesis ... Palahdee takes care of her, lives with her. Beside him, Mosha is no longer invisible. You could understand that it is his job, but their relationship goes far beyond that.

Many things are said about elephants. They have been called murderers, they have been called resentful, unpredictable. They have been feared and domesticated for many centuries. However, you just need ten minutes with them to understand the relationship of symbiosis, respect, and affection they have created during all these years. It just takes opening your eyes to make them visible, to realize the great capacity of love and respect they can generate. Because everything that is "said" about elephants is no more than a reflection of us as a species. It is nothing more than the consequence of our acts based on our strength, in our attempts to control them, in our attempts to use them.

It's lunchtime and Palahdee meets with the rest of the carers. Each of them cares for an elephant, always the same one. The bonds that are created between them and the risk of an elephants not trusting and respecting their carer are very important to break them. Everyone laughs, jokes, and eat as if they were a family. Because they really are one. All of them are the true heart of this place. It is thanks to their strength and their constant dedication that a place like this can exist. After lunch everything is calm. The elephants are silent. Paladhee is exhausted and smoking a cigarette waiting for Dr. Kayan to do the daily check on Mosha.

And so the days pass. Each day is practically the same as the previous one. There are moments of stress, moments of calm, moments of laughter. But above all there is security. Here these elephants can finally feel safe. Here these elephants can finally be as they are, not something that we use to our benefit. A place where our control disappears and where we are the ones learning from them, the ones learning to be as good as we can be. And more important, where there is no more pain.

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