Elephants are the national symbol of Thailand and represent strength, loyalty, endurance and intelligence. These magnificent animals have a long history in Thai society and many locals believe that walking under one will bring you luck. The white elephant which is more pink in colour, signifies royalty in the Kingdom. According to Buddhist tradition, on the eve of Buddha’s birth, his mother dreamed she was given a lotus flower by a white elephant.
The Elephant Nature Park
The Elephant Nature Park (ENP) is a rescue and rehabilitation sanctuary in Chiang Mai and was founded by Ms Sangduen Chailert (K. Lek) in 1996 who still runs it today. K. Lek is affectionately known as the Elephant Whisperer. She has dedicated her life to this important work and has a deep connection with each of the animals under her care. There are currently 130 rescued elephants at the park (as of July 2021) as well as a number of rescued cats, dogs, buffaloes and other species which they also care for. Six baby elephants have been born since the park opened.
Part of their mission statement includes reforestation and since the park opened, over 100,000 trees have been planted in the Mae Taeng forest area where the park is located. Species include 13 types of perennial plants including Albizia Lebbeck, Ficus, Banyan Trees, Acacia, Poecilia and Pterocarpus Macrocarpus.
Partnership with 137 Pillars Hotels & Resorts
The partnership came about when Anne Arrowsmith, Corporate General Manager for 137 Pillars Hotels & Resorts, was asked to showcase some of the unique aspects of Chiang Mai for a Thailand segment on The Today Show with Hoda and Jenna – a popular morning TV show in the USA. Anne chose the ENP because of its authentic ethos and because it doesn’t allow the elephants to be ridden. What she thought would be a day’s filming turned out to be a very spiritual experience as she met several of the elephants and interviewed K. Lek for the programme. Anne wanted to share this deeply meaningful, authentic experience with her hotel guests and to create a long-term partnership with the park to raise money to support the important work that K. Lek and her team do on a daily basis.
Launching on World Elephant Day, 12 August 2021 , 137 Pillars Hotels & Resorts will offer guests at both hotels an option to donate to ENP on check in with either a nominal amount of TBH100, 300 or 700 per night as they choose (based on 137 Pillars name) or a larger one-off donation if they prefer. 90% of donations will go to elephant conservation and 10% to reforestation. ENP will send a receipt and certificate to each donor.
Built in the late 1800’s 137 Pillars House once served as the headquarters for the Borneo Company who logged teak out of the jungle using elephants. While today both deforestation and using elephants in this manner are deeply inappropriate, sadly at the time this was not only acceptable but welcomed in the name of progress.