LONG BEACH — Ty Theara said he will never forget the experience of sitting under a 4,000 pound elephant and feeding them grass at a rescue for abused elephants in Thailand.
“I felt humbled to get to touch them,” Theara said. “They are so forgiving. They forgive you for anything even though they have been abused by humans.
“Even though they have been tortured by humans, they still let me sit underneath them and feed them,” he said.
Theara has visited the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand, three times since 2016 and plans to return this year.
Theara’s love for the mammoth mammals is shared by his partner, André Anglès.
The couple, who have been together since 2010, own and operate the popular Thai District restaurant in downtown Long Beach.
ELEPHANT NATURE PARK
On Monday, they will host a fundraiser at their East Village Arts District restaurant for the Elephant Nature Park. The Asian elephants at the sanctuary have been rescued from horrible conditions, including having to perform painful routines, such as rides, at amusement parks and entertainment locations, or from abusive owners who force them to paint or give rides to tourists.
The park’s uses a business model where tourists pay to visit and help care for the animals and can stay for extended periods. The park employees several hundred people, including veterinarians and cooks for the animals. Each elephant also is assigned an individual caretaker in charge of the animal’s welfare.
Auction items include a wine dinner for six at Thai District and a one-week stay at the 250-acre park.
Park co-founder and elephant conservationist Sangduen “Lek” (Thai for “Shorty”) Chailert will be attending and give a presentation on elephant conservation and rescue.
Tickets are $150.
Anglès and Theara learned about the park elephant sanctuary when they prepared the dinner for an elephant sanctuary benefit in 2016 in Orange County. Chailert spoke at the fundraiser.
“When I met Lek, she opened my eyes,” Theara said. “I wanted to do something to give back.”
Anglès said Chailert’s poignant discussion on how the park works to rehabilitate abused and injured elephants touched him.
“We needed to step up and help them out,” he said.