The Patara Elephant Camp starts with a narrative of the role Thai elephants and the forest played in the economy and keeping the peace in Thailand, a country without a history of occupation. Unfortunately, the elephant and the forest suffered and have continued to decline. The camp targets to develop sustainable growth in the forest and the elephant population, and educate visitors on proper care for elephants. For example, elephants have incredible sensitive feet, which is why elephants in the city develop stress related conditions.
Apparently poop is quite telling. It should be moist and smell earthy (pleasant smelling, really). Here, Sophie initially declines to palpate the poop, but she came around later.
We also learned to teach our elephants to play dead - you know, fool the poachers. Well, not really, but they were well trained and with simple tactile and verbal commands they knelt and laid down.
Of course taking care of an elephant includes a wash. They love the water, and willingly cooperated with our efforts to clean them.
We road bareback. When using a saddle or blanket, rocks and debris get caught under the saddle or blanket, causing skin breakdown. It took a little getting used to, but we loved riding on the neck.
Of course elephants need water...
...and a swim.