There are an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 Asian elephants left in the wild, and around 3,800 held captive in Thailand. Sadly, many of these elephants are born into the tourism industry, and have never experienced freedom. Born on May 17, 2021, at an elephant show and riding camp in Chiang Mai, Thailand, baby Chaba was one of these unfortunate elephants. That was until Save Elephant Foundation (SEF) stepped in to save her and give her a better life.
Four-month-old Chaba was born in the Thailand camp and kept in solitude, and her mother, BunMa, was forced to perform daily, doing circus tricks to entertain tourists. When the Thailand-based Save Elephant Foundation team learned of the elephants’ tragic situation, they went to the camp to save them. “We found the mother and baby in a small concrete pen, barren of any enrichment, and the mother on a short chain,” Ry from SEF told My Modern Met. “It was immediately clear that they were both in poor health and needed urgent intervention.”
SEF’s founder was able to negotiate the animals’ release to Elephant Nature Park in Northern Thailand, and on Wednesday, August 11, 2021, the team went to rescue the mother and baby. The rescuers originally planned to transport both elephants by truck to the nature park, but they were understandably frightened and refused to get in the vehicle. “We decided it was safer for them to walk to our sanctuary,” reveals Ry. “After two hours of walking, they arrived at ENP and were welcomed with an elephant cake.”
After enjoying the cake and some much-needed rest, Chaba was given her first-ever bath. In a heartwarming photo shared on Facebook, the adorable elephant is captured happily splashing around in her tub. “Baby Chaba loves her little pool,” wrote SEF on Facebook. “She loves playing with the water and splashing around. Mom walks away while she is playing and gets a moment to relax. She is growing confident and learning so much.”
Since then, SEF have shared numerous videos of little Chaba enjoying water. In one of the more recent videos, she’s seen confidently playing in a big outdoor pool with her basketball. “Like every baby elephant, Chaba loves to play in the water and take a mud bath,” says SEF. “The little one's weight is improving steadily. We are delighted to see the little girl growing with good health.” Chaba will now live the rest of her life in the park, where she’ll be loved and protected by her mother and the entire sanctuary team.