Thai hotel offers 'Jumbo University'
Just about everyone knows the parable of the blind men and the elephant.
In previous years, visitors to Thailand have ridden elephants, fed them bunch upon bunch of bananas, photographed them endlessly, watched them gambol about the polo field and signed up for mahout how-to courses.
Now it’s time to get to know the kingdom’s pachyderms a bit better.
The Elephant Researcher Program -- aka "Jumbo Uni" -- gives tourists a firsthand glimpse of what makes elephants tick.
Run by the Four Seasons Tented Camp in the Golden Triangle, the half-day program covers feeding, taking part in scientific studies and interacting with both the elephants and their researchers.
"These studies are aimed at giving us a better understanding of how elephants use their senses to navigate their natural world," said Dr. Joshua Plotnik, founder of Think Elephants International (TEI), a non-profit foundation aiming to bring (virtual) elephants into classrooms around the world.
"How elephants work together to obtain food, how they communicate with each other to solve problems and how they understand their social relationships with each other."
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Guests will be involved in the discussion that goes on during each study about the elephants’ progress during the research, and also take part in recording the different types of behavior displayed by each of the participating elephants.
"By understanding more about elephants' intelligence and what motivates them, we are able to discover new avenues to protect them better in the wild," said Dr. Plotnik.
"Understanding how elephants think and see their world will help us develop viable plans to protect them and their natural habitat."
TEI researcher Rachel Dale added: "Visitors get a completely unique hands-on experience of interacting with elephants, and it's the only place in the world where they can contribute to elephant research in this way."
Since starting in July, "Jumbo Uni" has attracted scores of travelers keen to learn more about Thailand's elephants and contribute something to the environment.
The program costs 11,000 baht (US$350) per couple. The fee is donated to TEI and the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation. For more information, click here.
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