My latest trip took me around the world. Our third stop was in Siem Reap, Cambodia. My family and I were there to visit Angkor Wat and install playgrounds. One side activity was taking an elephant ride and feeding him afterward. While I’m not a big fan of large animals performing, Asian elephants have a long history as work animals in South Asia and Southeast Asia. And we were assured they are well taken care of.
The ride was okay. It was short. My daughter-in-law and granddaughter rode one elephant and I was on a second. We lumbered by two small ruins in the Angkor Wat complex. The fun came after the ride. There was nobody waiting to ride one of the elephants, so we fed him watermelons. The animal grabbed the small melon with its trunk and efficiently moved it to his mouth. We could hear crunching as the elephant consumed the melon.
We also touched and petted his trunk. The rough skin and sparse hair were amazing. Just being that close to these giant, intelligent animals was an personal epiphany.
I know animal rights groups find these activities abhorrent, but I can’t help thinking that these close encounters encourage conservation by providing a better appreciation for the animals. But I’m open to other opinions and willing to repent.
The last stop on by around my around-the-world trip was in Uganda. There I observed African elephants in the wild. First in Murcheson Falls National Park and then in Queen Elizabeth National Park. These animals are wild, no feeding or touching.
One evening after work we drove the highway which bisects Queen Elizabeth N.P. To our surprise there was a large solitary male eating grass very near the highway. We parked and observed for several minutes. What an amazing animal. The world needs to protect them.
I’m lucky to have had the experiences I’ve had.