Katherine’s Journal

30 September 2014 — Friends, Fences and FUN!

We have been having so much fun here at BLES, with all the rain storms and muddy puddles. The Gossip Girls never fail to enjoy themselves, rolling and sliding, squeaking all the while, in the warm, wet, glorious mud and watching them play so freely never fails to make those of us that are lucky enough to watch them smile. Those three beautiful elephants are such a huge inspiration. As individuals, they have each overcome pain and abuse that we can only imagine, and have found it in their hearts to trust humans again and even like us again. As a group, seeing them, so constantly and physically close to each other, always reaching out, gently touching and reassuring each other, in the most gentle and loving way, is one of the most genuine and beautiful things I have ever witnessed.

Mee Chok has been up to his usual antics and causing mayhem amongst the Gossip Girls and Boon Thong at every opportunity! It is absolutely delightful to see Mee Chok charging around, stealing the ladies food, pushing over trees, kicking up the dirt and acting like he owns the place! Just a few months ago, he was an angry, confused little bull, in huge amounts of pain, due to breaking his tusk and getting an infection in the open cavity. It is mind blowing to think that just three months ago, he was recovering from major surgery… you would never think it now! Mee Chok is 5yrs old and everything a little elephant should be. He is boisterous, loud, loves to run around and is adored by his surrogate sister and mother, Lom and Pang Tong. When I watch Mee Chok, I always take a minute to really appreciate how very special he is. BLES is a small sanctuary that always puts the welfare and happiness of our animals first and foremost. When Mee Chok wants to charge around and have his moments of madness, we allow him to do just that. There are very few establishments that can offer this level of freedom to elephants. Not just freedom to run and vent, but also the freedom to express himself and to be a little unruly, a little out of control and a lot like a little wild elephant.

Here at BLES, we do not need to worry about crowds of tourists, standing in the way, getting injured or causing stress to our elephants, by encroaching on the elephant’s space. As a true sanctuary, we limit the number of people staying at BLES to six and always ensure our visitors understand that the elephant’s needs come before theirs. BLES is a fairly new sanctuary. We are only seven years old and have worked non stop to create a safe, secure, peaceful and loving environment for all the animals that come into our care. BLES is a space of complete physical and psychological protection, providing opportunities for individual animals to develop their independence and self authority.

We are now trying to take BLES to a new level and we are eager for all of you to be a part of it! Long time friend to BLES, Carol Buckley, has founded a new organisation called Elephant Aid International (EAI). EAI has pioneered fences for elephants throughout Asia and has had huge success in India and Nepal to date. EAI wants to reach out and help the elephants of Thailand and BLES has embraced the initiative, welcoming Carol and her expert team to create night time habitat areas for our rescued elephants. During the day at BLES, our elephants roam freely through the (nearly) 600 acres of forested land that we have been able to preserve for them.

Up until now, BLES has had no other choice but to secure our elephants during the night. To date, we have done this using one long, ankle chain (20 meters in length). Every night our elephants are walked out deep in to the forest, where the mahouts find a suitable location for the elephants to spend the night. An ideal location has thick and fresh natural foliage, will be of fairly flat terrain, have pockets of water, offer plenty of shade and will be spacious enough for the elephants to remain with their friendship groups.

Most of the land neighbouring BLES is privately owned and farmed. If our elephants were to wonder on to this land and destroy the farmer’s crops, the farmers would not hesitate to destroy the elephants in return, by shooting or poisoning them. Last year, we were called out to help a farmer whose five adult cows had been poisoned. Sadly, by the time we arrived, all the cows were dead. The farmer explained to us that his cows had trampled over another farmer’s rice field and had demanded thousands of Baht in compensation. The cow farmer had refused to pay the compensation and so the rice farmer retaliated by killing the cows. None of us like the thought of an elephant being secured with a chain around it’s foot, most of all, us here at BLES. However, hopefully you will now be able to understand that the only reason we have used a chain is purely for their safety.

BUT, BLES now has a hugely exciting opportunity to offer absolute freedom to our elephants, by working together with Elephant Aid International and creating chain free night time habitats.

The chain free night time habitat areas at BLES will include concreted metal corner posts, metal fence posts, topes (full post protectors), six strands of wire, insulators, emergency shut off switches, power indicator lights, solar panels, energy storage batteries and energizers to run the fences. Each elephant will have one acre of space, so The Gossip Girl’s enclosure will be a generous size of three acres.

Offering absolute freedom, such as this, does not come cheap. BLES is aiming to raise 10 000 USD by the 4th October 2014. These funds will pay for the materials needed to create the fencing and we need your help to achieve this!

When the 10 000 USD is successfully raised, BLES Founder, Katherine Connor and BLES Treasurer, Evelyn Connor will celebrate and show their gratitude, by being elephants for the day!

To be specific — Wassana and Pang Dow! Katherine and Evelyn will roll around in the mud, get hosed down, throw dirt over themselves, soak their feet in the streams and squeak and trumpet the day away, but ONLY when the 10 000 USD is raised! We will post a video of our ele antics, to prove we always stay true to our word and are already taking tips from the wonderful Wassana and pretty Pang Dow themselves!

Please join us on this ground breaking initiative and be a part of giving Wassana, Pang Dow and our other elephants at BLES complete and absolute freedom. We can not achieve this without financial support from all you elephant lovers around the world. Please show your support by donating today and help us finally remove the night time chains.

Just Giving

Trunks of thanks for your love and support,

Katherine and the elephants xx

13 September 2014

Permpoon update

It is difficult to know where to start this entry. I am still trying to make sense of recent events in my own head…

On the 26th August 2014, I posted about a beautiful elephant that BLES was preparing to welcome in to our loving and protective arms. Her name was Permpoon, she was 52 years old and was very weak. Permpoon started off her working life as a timber elephant here in our village of Baan Tuek and was then sold in to the tourism trade in the early 90’s. Permpoon had been trucked around the country, from one trekking camp, to another, where she was forced to carry tourists on her back and walk on her sore feet until the sun had set. The owners of Permpoon had gone to a lot of effort to contact us directly. They wanted to retire their elephant and had heard wonderful things about the work that BLES does.

On the 30th July 2014, Our local government vet approached us, saying that there was an elderly elephant in Phuket and the owner really wanted us to go and see her. Due to commitments at BLES, we were unable to travel down immediately. However, after a three day conference on elephant health in Lampang, organised by the Thai government, Anon and I flew down to Phuket to follow up on the call. We arrived in Phuket on the 16th August and went, with a cameraman and some good friends of ours, straight to the camp to see Permpoon. We spent most of the day at the camp, talking with the owners. They were hospitable and grateful to us for buying a truck load of treats for Permpoon and the other elephants at the camp. Anon and I checked over the paperwork and called the government vets in Lampang, with her microchip number, so they could double check her information. A reasonable price was agreed and the owners told us they were going to put the funds we would give them, in exchange for Permpoon, in to saving accounts for their adult children and grandchildren.

BLES, as I am sure you all know, is a very small organisation and we work and live on a shoestring. We did not have funds to hand to put down a deposit, but the owners assured us this was not a problem and we had a sure deal. We all left the camp feeling elated and excited about the imminent rescue. Anon remained in regular touch with the owners. He phoned them several times a week, asking if they wanted us to transfer a down payment to them and every time they said no. I needed to raise the funds to cover the transportation costs and launched a fundraiser on Facebook. Everyone had taken Permpoon in to their hearts and dug deep to make sure we had all the funds we needed to transport Permpoon safely. A film crew from the UK were eager to fly over and film Permpoon’s journey. My mum booked her flights as well as the founders of two elephant welfare organisations that BLES works very closely with. Everyone was overjoyed and wanted to be involved with Permpoon’s rescue. We had organised for a professional photographer to come and document the entire rescue and I booked and pre paid for the truck that would carry Permpoon throughout her journey. I had found a lovely, kind and compassionate mahout and had even found a supporter to sponsor his first three month salary. We had mapped out the entire journey and had arranged to stop off at the Kps Kampangsan hospital to give Permpoon a rest and a medical examination. With everything finalized, the date for Permpoon’s rescue was set — 18th September.

On the 6th September, another organisation visited Permpoon and despite the owners telling the organisation that Permpoon was not for sale, they made the owners an attractive offer. The owners caved in and accepted the offer.

On the 7th September, a mutual supporter of both organisations, contacted me and asked if there had been a change of plan for Permpoon, as she had seen pictures of her, posted on a Facebook profile, not affiliated with BLES. They were pictures of Permpoon, but her name had been changed to Tubtim. I immediately contacted the founder of the organisation to explain the situation. She said she did not not know that BLES was involved. On the 8th September, Anon and I flew down to Phuket, as we had been told about a sudden decline in Permpoon’s health. We spent hours with her everyday, buying her truck loads of nutritious foods, which she really enjoyed. The other organisation had sent down a team to administer hydration fluids and with our combined efforts, Permpoon was quickly improving.

On the 11th September, the founder of the other organisation arrived and announced she would be moving Permpoon from the camp and starting her on her journey home. It was obvious, there was no consideration for us and the deal we had made prior to this organisations involvement, stood for nothing. It seemed, amongst many things, strange to Anon and I, that this organisation would truck her all the way to Chiang Mai, when a home had already been promised in Sukhothai, which is 300km south of Chiang Mai and would therefore reduce her time in the truck by several hours. Feeling very down hearted and confused, Anon and I spent some time alone with Permpoon. We wished her well and I told her to stay strong.

As disappointed as we all are to not be giving Permpoon a forever home and as upsetting as it is that all our hard work and dedicated efforts were disregarded with such a lack of respect, we are relieved to know that Permpoon will be cared for. I guess at the end of the day, it is not important, which facility was able to home Permpoon. The most important thing is that she has been retired and will be very much loved. There are thousands of needy elephants throughout Thailand and we have no intention of giving up on our mission to work with the Thais and offer sanctuary to as many elephants as we can.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for always standing by us and for taking Permpoon in to your hearts. Please join me in sending Permpoon lots of white light and well wishes, for a safe and happy future.

Trunks of thanks for your support,

Katherine and the elephants xxx