Oct 30 2012
If you’d like to get up close to some Asian elephants, learn more about pachyderms and even contribute to the animals’ welfare — but would prefer to avoid visiting one of North Thailand’s numerous elephant camps and shows — then Lampang’s famous elephant hospital might be the spot for you.
Since its opening, thousands of sick and injured elephants have been treated here with problems ranging from poor diet and shotgun or barbed wire injuries to more serious land-mine injuries from the Burmese border areas. The centre has now become a world leader in treating the gentle giants (though some of the animals suffer from trauma as a result of their injuries and sadly aren’t so gentle anymore).
Treatment combines traditional Western medicine with herbal remedies and indeed there’s also a research facility into natural medicine on site.
One of the hospital’s more famous inmates is a 50-year-old female, Motala, who lost a foot in Burma, whose plight attracted the attention of the world media and whose treatment was partially funded by no less than the Brigitte Bardot Foundation.
There are no shows or rides here, and you are free to wander around and visit the elephants in the rest and recuperation centre or even visit the treatment areas. There’s plenty of info plus a short video in the reception centre, where you can also contribute by buying souvenirs or just making donations. Next door to the hospital is the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre, an entirely separate entity and which does offer shows and rides, as well as actually having their own hospital which you can also visit.
The hospital is located some 28 kilometres north of Lampang city, adjacent to the main highway to Chiang Mai. Unlike the Elephant Conservation Centre the hospital doesn’t run shuttle buses, though that’s an easy option if you’re planning on visiting both sites.
Otherwise, unless you have your own means of locomotion, you’re reliant on public transport, which means the Lampang-Chiang Mai bus. These do run hourly all day so it’s not a problem to get dropped off on the main highway, from where you’ll have a five- or 10-minute walk, and then return to the highway after your visit to flag down the next passing bus. Well worth a visit!
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