Cohen’s 2,000+ pound charge runs free at Elephant Nature Park

| June 28, 2018 | 1 Comment

CHANG YIM was born at the elephant sanctuary in 2009.

After years of serving the local community, Village Pizzeria owner Steve Cohen reached further across the globe, much further, in his latest philanthropic endeavor.

He adopted an elephant.

Cohen hopes to travel to Thailand to visit his charge in time for the pair’s birthday — Steve’s is July 13; the elephant Chang Yim’s is July 12.

He chose eight-year-old Chang Yim from among 200 elephants at the sanctuary and rescue center, Elephant Nature Park, in northern Thailand.

“I wanted an elephant born on my birthday… so we could have birthday parties,” said Steve.

But sponsoring the 5,000+ pound pachyderm was much more than a celebratory whim for the Lucerne Boulevard resident, who has helped local charities from Hope Net, Alexandria House and Covenant Home in his 21 years of dishing out pies on Larchmont Boulevard.

He became enchanted with the beauty and wonder of the Thai countryside on visits there, but eventually became embarrassed of the touristy elephant rides he had taken on earlier trips after he learned about the plight of the Asian elephant.

Young elephants are taken from their mothers, who are often killed, and then the youngsters are tortured and chained to succumb them to learn circus tricks and to be hired for trekking.

“I thought [trekking] was cool … a baby elephant coming behind me, I thought that was cool, but then I found out the truth,” Cohen said.

VILLAGE PIZZERIA’S Steve Cohen hopes to celebrate birthdays in Thailand.

The Brooklyn native also came to regret his jaunts to see elephants performing tricks with Ringling Bros. in his youth at Madison Square Garden. Trainers made the elephants look like they enjoyed it, when “behind the scenes they tortured [the elephants] and were cruel.”

The movement to protect the elephant rather than exploit it has picked up steam in the U.S. with the release of “Love & Bananas: An Elephant Story,” a documentary recently shown to the Los Angeles City Council.

A husband and father of two, Cohen has long admired the strong and family-oriented animal also known for his intelligence and memory.

He hopes efforts by the Elephant Nature Park’s leader, known as the “elephant whisperer,” Sangduen “Lek” Chailert, and others, will help turn the tide of abuse and exploitation throughout Asia, which if left unchecked “will clearly lead to extinction of the majestic giant.”

The park’s herd includes disabled, orphaned and blind elephants of all ages, many of which have been rescued from the abusive training involved in the logging, tourism and street begging industries.

Steve keeps up with Chang Yim by watching videos of the young elephant run in fields and swim in lakes and pools at the 250-acre nature park in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Chang Yim, which means Smiling Elephant, is the second to be born from a resident elephant at the sanctuary, opened in 1996.

He has been embraced by members of the herd, smiles Steve proudly.

To learn more visit

Travels with elephants …

Not sure where to go on your next adventure? Visit this link to learn more about an increasingly popular way to help the world and its creatures while still getting away:  (P.S. There’s a dog sanctuary at the site too.)

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Category: People

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  1. Steve C. says:

    Thank you Susan @Larchmont Chronicle.
    I appreciate your effort, your kindness, your interest and consideration to draw attention to ENP and the struggle spearheaded by Lek and her team and I encourage everyone to donate if possible and visit ENP for a life changing experience !!!
    Please note :
    The sanctuary rescues dogs, cats, cows as well and volunteers their vetinary team to local villages for free !

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