Training Elephants in Thailand

If you have ever dreamed of becoming an elephant trainer here is your chance. For only $100, you can attend the Elephant Conservation School located an hour south of Chiang Mai, Thailand. The price includes a three-day training course to become a mahout (trainer) and excellent Thai cooking.There is only one real complication: Thai elephants only speak Thai.

If you choose to attend the Mahout Training school there are 14 commands that you must learn. Such commands include “song soong”, a coordination trick; “tag long” which involves jumping over an elephant’s head; and “tag long” lets the elephant know it should lay down its head. Not surprisingly, getting down the pronunciation of these commands is a challenge, but David Rich, a participant in the training, assures that there is time to practice.

Once you get the commands down, it’s a lot of fun. Plus, you get to ride an elephant into an exotic jungle. Rich recalls “the first trek into the jungle we quickly learned the most repeated command is bai, which means ‘GO’. The jungle to an elephant is like a chocolate factory to a Willie Wonka kid; every jungle bit is luscious, edible and available”.

Besides training the elephants, Rich learned how to make paper from elephant dung. Although this may sound a bit overwhelming to some, the dung has been bleached and washed beforehand. Nevertheless, get ready to be up to your elbows in it, Rich’s group remolded one pound balls.

The three day course is a once in a life-time experience, and even if you do not master the techniques well enough to receive a diploma, you will love your stay. Rich explains that “As we stood in the spotlights before the cheering crowd and accepted our diplomas, we realized that we had been smiling for three straight days.”

Source: David Rich