Thousands of Asian elephants are kept in trekking camps around the world, where they are trained to be docile enough to offer rides for tourists. But one elephant has recently escaped from his captors.
At the age of 40, Gan Da (also known as Darling) doesn’t seem to remember much of her life before working in the trekking camp, as she has spent most of her life there. She was likely trained using the same harsh tactic as everyone else, a method called “crushing”.
“Thailand currently has a captive population of more than 3,500 individuals and a wild population of about 3,200,” said Wildlife Friends Thailand (WFFT), which runs an elephant shelter for animals as Gan Da, wrote.
So it was no small cause to celebrate when an Australian woman agreed to fund the rescue and relocation of Gan Da to the refuge so she could finally have a taste of freedom.
Tom Taylor, manager of the WFFT Wildlife Rescue Center & Elephant Refuge, said: “We have been contacted by her owner who wanted her to retire from the tourism industry. “Fortunately, we had a recent fundraiser for elephants in Sydney, Australia, which allowed us to rescue her.”
So, this week, Gan Da’s necklace was removed, and she was loaded onto a delivery truck towards an exciting new chapter in her life.
It isn’t easy to know exactly what Gan Da was thinking as she was escorted to the reserve, but a glimpse in one photo shows her wagging her tail as the truck sped off the highway towards her new home.
The people at the refuge were there to greet her and show her around her new home, lush with grass and trees that she would be free to explore.
She also loved a gentle rinse from the hose.
“After a long journey from northern Thailand, Gan Da was pleased to step out of the truck and stretch her legs,” WFFT wrote on Facebook. “Gan Da spent the first day free, unfettered, munching on a variety of treats, adjusting to her new life.”
“She is a sweet girl and loves her newfound freedom at WFFT,” said Taylor. “She has shown interest in the other elephants here. We hope she will make new friends and enjoy her retirement surrounded by other rescued elephants.”