As my second has been evolving I am starting to adjust to the new place and work environment in Thailand. The second week I have spent at the park has been a bit different. Now that my volunteer experience/training is over I had general ideas on what I could do during my stay. I was able to make good connections with my manager at the park and we have discussed about pros and cons at the park.
As for pros I would say the organization is doing a good on promoting and advancing the park. Each year the organization is receiving more and more requests for volunteering and ways to be involved. Elephant Nature Park has a good media and technology team where all the social media is updated daily and promotion videos are posted weekly. The general crowd especially those who are away are constantly on track on what is happening with the project. I had a chance to witness a new rescue of an elephant with Khun Lek and it has been promoted with live videos and footages. There are many more projects that Khun Lek has taken on besides rescuing the elephants. One of the upcoming ones is “Baan Lao cultivation”, the project is focused on local community growth and sustainable farming where organic coffee will be the main product for plantation. There are more than 4 upcoming project coming up and the process is ongoing.
With employees who have been at the park for more than 10 years, the park definitely has a good system that is well followed. However, there are some cons I have analyzed as well. Being a science student, I wanted to know what kind of volunteers come here and why they have chosen ENP. With all the people I have met so far, including staff members and volunteers, I was able to conduct a few survey questions doing my casual conversations. It is discovered by that people divide into three categories: tourists/visitors, conservationists, and animal welfare enthusiasts. With general visitors people come here to see an elephant and that’s the main purpose. A lot of the times people forget to follow the rules (short safety video showed earlier on their way to the park) because they are so taken over by joy of seeing an elephant and because it is vacation for them people really want to know too much about what is going on. The second group are the true warriors. Those people start to think critically on situations they have encountered at the park and what could be further done for the elephants. Some of the conservation volunteers have been conserved about the density of the weekly volunteers coming in which creates a vulnerable environment for the elephants. Since most of the elephants have been injured or abused in the past it is very likely that this wild animal can attack at any point of time, volunteers have to keep a certain distance from the elephants and follow the designated tour guides. It is the tours guides and volunteers responsibility to stay away and always alert near the elephants. However, I could see that some tour guides did not pay too much attention to this matter and could concern people and this is something that the managers are taking into consideration. One more is there wasn’t a lot of educational programs at the park.
Although the park does have video presentation on elephant rescue and big brochures for visitors to read and as I stated my goals on my first blog post I wanted to work on educational part of the program to create more materials for volunteers at the park. However, realistically thinking I did not have time to create an actual program , so I have sat with the manager and talked on what could be done. So for the decision, we have decided to take a social approach and create an information session for whoever is interested to learn more and I was the go-to person if they had any questions regarding the park. I have learned that the program itself is very large and has designated people to every piece of the puzzle so the idea of coming in and changing something is impossible with a short time frame. However, what we have discussed during meeting is to improve the training process of guides in order to better serve and educate the community. On my next blog, I will give updates more on Thai culture and how my social education has evolved.