While enjoying his retirement in Thailand together with his wife, Per Arne Granbo, 61, from Norway is very much into two things, politics and his beloved elephants.
The Norwegian pensioner is doing volunteer work at Elephantstay in Ayutthaya. And very much committed:
“I just love my babies,” is how he himself describes his relation to the newly born baby elephants.
Elephantstay is a place where tourists can come and live together with the big animals for a minimum of three days. Each tourist gets his/her elephant which he/she will have to take care of – including everything as feeding, bathing and swimming in the river.
Per Arne helps Elephantstay with a range of different jobs. Feeding the elephants, making English language information and PR for the farm. But first of all he enjoys to go to the farm and just hang around with the elephants. While visiting him and his beloved ones, he continually says:
“Isn’t this fantastic? They are so big and still so human. I think it is amazing!” and sure there is something about it. Especially charming are the smaller ones, the baby elephants, the youngest one just born two weeks before we visited.
But the day when the youngest baby was born was not only happiness for Per Arne, as one of the older elephants injured his arm the just same day:
“It is only strained, but it is my own fault. I know how to act among elephants and I did’nt do it right, so I was stupid.”
But his love for his elephants has not declined since, he tells with passion that it is very much needed that the Thai government start supporting the national animal or it will simply die out.
“I really don’t get why the Thai government does not support the preservation of the elephants, while last year when a panda was born in Thai zoo, they supported it with several millions of baht,” says Per Arne.
The goal for Elephantstay is to preserve the national animal of Thailand, and to rescue elephants who have been mistreated. At Elephantstay they believe that the only way to preserve the elephants in Thailand is to make it a business, because the natural free elephant in Thailand is threatened. The Elephants at Elephantstay doubles as sightseeing transportation for tourists in the ancient Thai capital.
For now the support of the Thai elephant is on private hands. And there are many possibilities explains Per Arne. One of the possibilities is that companies could adopt a elephant, and maybe use it for marketing purposes and of course donations are very welcome.
And you yourself have the possibility to come and get to know the elephants at Elephantsstay in Ayutthaya. While feeding, bathing, walking and swimming your elephant you stay at an air conditioned bungalow at the farm. And you will not only work with the Elephants you also experience them painting and performing different tricks – and maybe you’ll even get a big wet kiss, as one of the tourists experienced when we visited.
A tourist coming all the way from England to Thailand to stay with the elephants told us how he experienced his stay with the elephants:
“It is just fantastic. A thing of a life time! It is really something to get so close to them.”
Per Arne Granbo agrees:
“Imagine the feeling the first time you sit on the back of a animal weighing several hundred kilos. It is so special,” he says.
One of the things he enjoys the most at the farm is to watch the elephants swimming in the river:
“Sometimes I come here in the afternoon at just sit here by the riverside at watch the elephants swimming – it just makes me happy.”
Read more about Elephantsstay.
Take a look at some of the photos we took at the elephants’ home in Ayutthaya.
Watch the baby elephants playing in the tub