31 December 2013
What a year this has been!
2013 has been a roller coaster of ups, downs, highs, lows, cheers of joy, tears of sorrow… but through it all, we have stuck together and look at how much we have achieved!
The year started off with the eventful rescue of sweet old Somsri, who was a trekking elephant from the south of Thailand. In her seventies and seriously ill, Somsri sadly only enjoyed her life at BLES for six weeks, before passing. Somsri lived her final days with dignity, was treated with respect and given the freedom that was rightfully hers. She enjoyed a varied and healthy, natural diet and despite being so ill, taught us the meaning of true happiness. I will never forget her gentle purrs of contentment. Bless your sweet should, Somsri.
In February, my teams and I drove 16 hours through the night to pay a follow up visit on Tong Yui and Bong Being. These two young elephants had lived at BLES for two and a half years, after being forced to beg the streets of the major cities in Thailand. Due to the owner’s declining health, the girls were taken back to live in Surin in September 2012. BLES takes the welfare of all elephants, particularly the ones who have been in our care, very seriously. We work hard to maintain open and positive relationships with the elephant owners, ensuring they know, they can call on us at any time, should they need our support.
March was the month of the Death Row Rescues. Our local human hospital had announced they were going to destroy all the stray animals living in their complex. Their plan was to shoot all the dogs and poison the cats. BLES offers sanctuary to any animal in need and launched into action immediately. With a small team of volunteers, BLES was able to save the lives of 15 cats and 7 dogs, who have now been sterilized and are thriving here at BLES.
In April, BLES celebrated the ten year survival anniversary of our granddad bull, Somai. Somai, who is now in his late sixties, suffered third degree burns all over his body, after being caught in a fierce forest fire. We are so honoured and proud to have Somai in our family and treated him to his very own, private fruit feast to show him how much we admire him.
May is always an important month for BLES. Our Founder’s Day is on May 5th and this year we celebrated our 6th anniversary with an extravagant buffet for all our rescued elephants.
The month of June was busy, busy busy! We had a full house of elephant loving guests and welcomed camp owners from Pattaya as well as officials from PETA Asia.
In July, we discovered Dalla, an elephant in desperate need of saving. Dalla was blind, elderly and still giving trekking rides to tourists. Tragically, time was not on our side and Dalla died before we were able to rescue her. This however, lead us to the plight of two old female elephants working in a camp in Pattaya. Boon Thong and Boon Sri were again, giving rides to tourists, despite their fragile physical states and BLES launched a campaign to save these two beautiful girls. BLES supporters around the world, pulled together and raised the funds needed in record time. The BLES team jumped in to action and started making the preparations needed, only to discover that all was not what it seemed. Boon Sri, the younger of the two, did not have the necessary paperwork and BLES was therefore unable to remove her from the camp. This was of course heartbreaking for us all and not a day passes when Boon Sri doesn’t enter our thoughts, but her situation was completely and utterly out of our hands.
We were able to bring Boon Thong to her forever home in August and thousands of elephant lovers around the world rejoiced as we watched her take her first steps of freedom. After all the drama and stress of July, it was a relief to know we had at least saved one elephant from the cruel existence of giving tourist rides.
September was a quiet month, full of long elephant walks to the river and various streams we are blessed to have surrounding our property, all year round. It was also the month BLES received prestigious recognition from National Geographic for our contribution to animal welfare.
The month of October welcomed the KLM Royal Dutch Airlines film crew. Together we created a mini documentary highlighting how tourists traveling to Thailand can make a positive difference towards stopping the cruelty elephants working in tourism face on a day to day basis. The film , currently featured on all KLM Royal Dutch Airline flights to Thailand, will be seen by at least 4 million travellers.
In November, I embarked on a research trip to the south of Thailand, together with Louise Rogerson, founder of Elephant Asia Rescue and Survival foundation (EARS) and Sarah Blaine, founder of Mahouts Foundation, which left me crushed. Everywhere I looked, animal cruelty was glaring back. I am still haunted by the cries of the baby elephants, shackled in front of restaurants, posing for photos with tourists. The blood stains on the foreheads of babies as young as three years old, already torn from their mother’s side, broken in and being forced to carry tourists on their little backs… It drives me on, knowing there are still thousands of elephants in need of our help. We will not give up, we will not turn a blind eye. We will not be silenced and we will strive onwards in our universal mission to make our world a kinder and safer home for the elephants. My interview.
November also welcomed our good friend Carol Buckley, founder of Elephant Aid International back to BLES and boy, do we ever have exciting plans for the elephants! More news on our joint endeavour will follow in the new year, so watch this space!
December was our month of growth, with the welcomed addition of vet nurse, Lucy Clark to the BLES team. Lucy has lived in Thailand working at a number of wildlife rescue organizations for the past four years and we are keeping her very busy here at BLES!
BLES was able to join forces with Soi Dog Foundation, based in Phuket and organize a mass sterilization of the cat and dog community in our local village. Together, we were able to sterilized and vaccinate 32 animals — what an achievement!
Christmas was such a joyous time. We spoiled our elephants with the most extravagant fruit feast to date and then threw a big fun filled party for our mahouts and housekeepers in the evening. In between the festivities, we drove down to our local autistic school in a minibus full of gifts, kindly donated by BLES fans and handed them out to the children there. We stayed for hours, playing and laughing together and I have to say, it made my year, seeing the smiles on their beautiful little faces and hearing their innocent laughter.
And so here we are, at the end of another eventful year…
Thank you so very much for being beside us every step of the way and helping us achieve the impossible for all our rescued animals. Our work is not done, it will never be done, but I am filled with energy and passion, knowing we are all in this together. It motivates and drives me on, knowing we all stand united in our mission. Together we are making a difference and as you all see out the old year and in the new, I ask you to take a minute to realize what you have helped us achieve and feel proud.
Warmest wishes for the New Year and all the wonderful things we will achieve for the animals.
Trunks of love, tail wags of thanks and purrs of appreciation from the entire BLES family XxXxX