We think of companion animals as the pets who live in our homes; the animals we care for and snuggle with on our couch.
But as I picked through the dense bamboo and lush mountains of my new home in the jungle in Chiang Mai, I came across some giant ‘pets’ that certainly wouldn’t fit on my sofa!
Little did I know my first visit would be the beginning of a new chapter in my life – working to save the endangered Asian Elephant.
I learned about the economic role elephants play in Thailand. Families often rely on the ownership of an elephant to earn money for food and education by leasing them to tourism or construction industries.
But this comes at a cost to the animals themselves – the elephants often experience substandard veterinary care, insufficient nutrition and mistreatment.
Elephant Nature Park (ENP) works tirelessly to care for and rehabilitate these suffering elephants, often physically and psychologically traumatised by their years of abuse and isolation from their family herd.
My experience was so moving, that I was inspired to use my position at Elanco to help the elephants directly.
Back home, Elanco supported and encouraged me to pursue my passion, helping me begin studies for an additional Veterinary Nursing degree from Purdue University, so that when I returned in November last year I was able to participate directly in elephant care.
My time at ENP has transformed my view of animals in tourism. In many ways, exotic species are an avenue to educate tourists, but it needs to be done ethically.
While I helped many elephants in my time at the park, it was the elephants who changed my life and helped me. I could never have predicted that a simple vacation would mean my annual leave in future would be spent wearing scrubs, covered in bug spray and analysing elephant dung.
This year, why not make a resolution to pursue your passion and discuss this with your teams? Don’t be afraid to address the elephant in the room – you might find yourself in a completely unexpected and wonderful place!
CTA: Watch this video to save the Asian elephant, featuring Katherine Kendrick.