Elephants are my family
Non and his Elephant Freedom Village
My aim is to have my elephants and community live happily together meanwhile run business with the truth and true love
History of Karen people and their elephants
Wild elephants or Domestic elephants
Elephants in Karen communities are domestic elephants which are the majority of the elephants in Thailand. Wild elephants are only reserved in some parts of Thailand.
Relationship between elephants and Karen
Elephants and Karen people have been living together for more than 700 years, and they were used for heavy tasks. However, unlike other species, elephants and Karen have a close relationship between each other like a family in which they will help and take care of each other. Generally, a father will raise his son with his elephant to create a bond between them since a young age. Until a son reaches an age of 15, then his father will pass the responsibility of taking care of elephant to him.
What have elephants’ lives changed from the past?
Elephants were used for logging in the past. But since our forest has shrunk and logging business has been (I believe) mostly illegal, elephants were brought to support the tourism business which was blooming instead. However, at the early time, the tourism business used elephants for (back) riding, and (granted I believe there were lots of elephant caretakers and business owners who loved elephants) sadly often heard that elephants were used too much than their bodies could hold.
Recently though, riding elephants has become Not-acceptable, so businesses have promoted other activities with elephants instead.
Passion and Love
Non and his elephants
“I knew them since I was born, and we are family” That’s what Non told me.
Non is actually my friend, and he’s known as a naughty-funny guy. But when he was telling this, I could feel his genuine and true love for his elephants inside.
“I remember following my dad everywhere, helping him take care of our elephants since I was very young. That’s our (Karen) culture. Elephants’ lifetime is very long, similar to human’s, and they have lived through many generations of my family. That creates a bond between us, and we take care of each other like family.”
What inspired to have Elephant Freedom Village
“When I was 15, I was responsible for elephants in my family. At that time, riding elephants was a quite popular activity, and we (Non and his elephants) worked for one elephant camp. The condition there was not so good, we worked hard...me and my elephants. They didn’t care about my elephants and used them for riding too much. Meanwhile, I was working so hard too. I remember when my elephants were sick or hurt, I needed to take days off and they just didn’t care and didn’t pay me nothing. That was what inspired me to leave and have my own place for my elephants.”
Better lives for my elephants
“My goal is to have a business that allows my elephants to live as close to nature as much as possible while still making the community happy.
I am Karen and I am proud of my heritage. I want to represent my culture as much as possible while genuinely sharing my knowledge of living together with elephants.”
What you should know about elephants?
Chain vs No chain
“I’ve often heard of no-chain businesses which sadly mislead people from the truth in order to just sell their nice narrative.
Generally, yes, we do chain our elephants for many reasons but of course, only when it's nescessary.
In fact, for the most cases, we chain them for their own good because we LOVE them.
1. A caretaker is not around - First of all, elephants are massive and can easily cost damage to property or even HUMAN, so we can not let them roam free without being in the sight of their caretakers, especially at night. And if they roam free, they will sometimes go eat something that they are not supposed to eat such as pesticides.
Big fences give them more option without chaining but still they need to be in the sight of their caretakers, otherwise they will just knock all the fences down (they are so powerful and were used for logging in the past).
2. When they are sick - For them to hold still
3. When they are getting aggressive - Usually to male elephants. There are reports of elephants killing people all the time. Don’t forget that they are way more massive than humans. So a small hit from them could easily kill us.
4. Protecting them from fighting each other - Elephants are social animal, and they do fight each other from time to time even between female, especially if they are brought from different family.
Rope? That sounds more friendly but it will definitely cut their skin.”
“So there are neck riding and back riding. Neck riding is actually fine, it's like riding horse. Back riding on the other hand, will put too much pressure on them. Occasionally is fine if it's necessary but definitely not for tourism. Elephants' spines are structured to carry their own bellies which are big enough. Putting a human (or often 2 humans for tourism and a chair) will make their lives miserably. And in the past, I've seen countless of back riding in a day, that's very bad. And I will do everything to prevent that from happening to my elephants.“
“It's to discipline the elephants and for our own protection but we barely use it really. We teach our elephants since they are young, mainly is for them to learn how to live with people.
Elephants have very thick skin, so they won’t feel anything when you just touch them. We also know how to properly hit them, not to hurt them but just enough to warn them.”
Fruits all day is bad
“What happens when you eat too much sugar? That is exactly what happens to elephants when you let them eat too much sugary diet. So you need to mix things up, let them eat some grass or walk them to the forest to have natural medicine. Too much sugar will not just make them fat but make the situation worse when they are aggressive.”
They are big family
“Elephants live and take care of each other in their herd. Baby elephants will be protected by not only their moms but other older members. Male elephants will leave their herd when it’s time to start their own, and there is only one full grown male elephant in one family.”
“They are very smart creatures. They can remember things, and can remember who has done good or bad to them.
They can smell things from 10 miles away.
They can sense empathy and justice and can sense who is kind and who is a bad person.
They show concern to other species and moan the dead one in their family”
“Usually when they are happy, they will swing their ears and tail. Their eyes will not look sad and they will eat normally. They love to eat, so if they’re not eating, there is something wrong for sure.”
“Elephants are calm and kind most of the time. But even me, still keep the fact in mind that they can hurt me anytime, accidentally or intentionally. Their trunks are unbelievably strong and they are really smart. If they don’t like you, they can pretend to be nice to you but hurt you when they have a chance. If you don’t know them very well, please beware and don’t get too close when their caretakers are not around
I love them so so much like my family but I also love my life and definitely care about yours. ”
Experience with Elephant Freedom Village
Business with authenticity
“We are all family, my elephants, me and everyone who lives and works here. We are proud of our own roots and culture, and want to present them with our dignity. We want to run our business with the truth and truly love, to create true perception and understanding, so everyone is happy.“
Your experience matters
“I prefer to keep touring a small group in order to deliver the best experience as much as I can.“
What visitors say about Elephant Freedom Village
“I feel like these elephants are truly loved and cared for like family.“
“Non has a deep connections to his elephants. The experience here is much more intimate then the bigger well-known elephant camps.“
“I've been to other camps and aspects that differentiated this camp compared to others is the quality and authentic experience I had with this local culture.“
“Non refers to these elephants as not money making tools nor a pet, but family.“
“I’ve been to a couple other similar places in town and this was by far the most caring and informative one. A+ would do again! ❤️“
“Real, authentic and ethical. We are way far from these commercial and business oriented elephant experiences that you will find in Chiang Mai.“
“Contrary to what we heard about other sanctuaries, here we were able to connect and have a real experience also thanks to the small group policy. Really, if you’re looking for authenticity and “the elephant always comes first” mindset, this is your place!“
“The owner is amazing, it's not commercial by any means.“
“A local business that dont focus in marketing like the other ones. Loved“
“There are so many Elephant sanctuaries in Thailand and I tried to research as many as I could. This one seemed the most authentic and ethical and it was!“
“They strive to be original and they strive to help and care for others, humans and animals rather than the money making. They want to return the elephants to the forest as much as possible.“
“Best part about EFV is that they keep the tour group small so you get more attention but more importantly the elephants aren’t as anxious as with large crowds. Again - it’s all about the elephants :)“
Non and Baan Khagee
“Non and I love to see our businesses grow of course. But these days, the days that many do whatever to sell, we still stay true to ourselves and deliver what we believe is our core value.
Non wants to give better lives to his elephants while running his business with the truth, love, and passion while I love to create original art and friend-like atmosphere at my studio.“