Chiang-Dao Chiang Mai Elephant Training Center was founded in 1969 and was one of the first elephant camps in Chiang Mai. Located at 108/1 Moo 9, T. Inthakil, A. Mae Taeng, Chiang Mai Province, or kilometer 56 on the Chiang Mai-Fang Road, the Chiang-Dao Chiang Mai Elephant Training Center has one of the most beautiful natural settings in Chiang Mai surrounded by small hills and the Ping River running through it year round. Manas Yaviraj was the founder of the elephant training center, which he started by renting three elephants from neighboring Karen hill tribes to showcase to tourists elephants’ working skills such as teak logging.
The center expanded over the years and Chiang-Dao Chiang Mai Elephant Training Center began to purchase its own elephants as well as implementing a vigorous breeding program, with numbers increasing so much that today it is home to 32 elephants. Chiang-Dao Chiang Mai Elephant Training Center works elephants in the mornings only, allowing all elephants to enjoy their afternoons and nights in the beautiful and bountiful natural environments so that they can return to their natural habitats, breed and live in as natural a way as possible. Because of the importance put upon their natural habits, baby elephants are adopted by the herd and the natural behaviors of the elephants allow them to behave as they would in the wild. Baby elephants are cared for and grow into members of the herd which in turn care for the future young.
Ceremonies: Every 16th of April we at Chiang-Dao Chiang Mai Elephant Training Center organize the traditional dam hua ceremony (normally held by the Lanna people during the Thai new year period to show respect for elders). Starting from 8 a.m. we perform this ceremony to apologize to the elephants for any transgressions made against them during the previous year as well as to show our respect and appreciation for the love, obedience and friendship which we have received over the past year from the elephants.
The entire ceremony starts on the 13th of April when we make offerings to the local spirits which includes boiled chicken, alcohol, mieng leaves, local cigarettes, candles, floral offerings, and incense sticks. On the morning of the 16th we make a special offering in the memory of founders of the camp Manas Yaviraj and Sunantha Yaviraj, pioneers of elephant camps in the north of Thailand. This ceremony includes offerings of flowers to be placed, on the heads of elephants as well as the pouring of cumin and Sompoi water, prays of apology and blessings for the longevity, health and happiness of the elephants. Elephants will then be fed a banquet of their favorite foods including sugar canes, bananas, coconuts, watermelons, tamarinds and corn.
This has always been a private ceremony held between the owners, staff and elephants of Chiang-Dao Chiang Mai Elephant Training Center. It is an intimate and simple occasion but important for us to, at least once a year, pay our respect and appreciation for all that we receive from our elephant friends and companions.