Touched by the plight of Thailand's gentle giants

RECOGNISABLE by her high-strung personality and dislocated back leg, Tilly's devotion to her best friend Mae Kham Puan, who is 90 per cent blind, continues to affect Michael Brock daily.

"They swim together, they live together, they spend all their time together. To me, it's a story of complete dedication," said 70-year-old Michael, who met Tilly at an elephant rescue and rehabilitation centre in northern Thailand last July.

"I'm a full-time volunteer and I have been to Peru twice helping the poor which is where I heard about this park [Elephant Nature Park].

"Most of the elephants are sick there, a lot are blind, some have had part of their foot blown off when they stepped on a landmine; someone had taken to one with a chainsaw to remove the ivory.

"My favourite, Tilly, they'd tried to mate her with an elephant that was much heavier, who broke her spine.

"Before coming to the park [in March 2011] she'd had 15 owners; no one had really cared for her and she had deteriorated.

"Her whole life now is dedicated to helping her best friend who was blinded by her mahout (trainer) because she did something wrong."

Since returning home to Baulkham Hills, Michael has been sharing these stories of elephant mistreatment with others, in the hope they may volunteer at the park too.

Michael said he paid AU$500 to live at the park for three weeks, which included accommodation and food.

"We worked about two hours every morning and every afternoon, cutting corn, cleaning their water tanks, moving sand and washing down the various areas where they eat," he said.

"When I was there they had 46 elephants and there were 40 volunteers every week from all over the world."

Michael challenged anyone who saw the elephants to not be touched.

For more on Elephant Nature Park, visit elephantnature

park.org.

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