Katherine’s Journal

1 January 2015

2014 — the year of growth and learning…

I can hardly believe we have already waved goodbye to 2014…

It has been a whirlwind year full of drama, some good, some bad, but all of it necessary to teach us lessons in life and help us grow stronger as an organisation.

Every step of the way, you, our wonderful, faithful and dedicated supporters, have been with us. Through the ups and downs, every high and low, you have stuck with BLES and kept us strong.

If I have learned one thing over the past twelve months, it is that BLES strives and thrives, because we are an international, multi species family, standing united with passion to realise our mission of creating and maintaining a kinder, more compassionate world for the elephants and all other animals.

As the days of 2015 start to go by, I just want to reach out and personally thank each and every one of you for contributing to BLES, through time, energy, ideas, donations, gifts, friendship, moral support, prayers — every single person has the ability within them to make a positive difference and you are all shinning examples of that!

Your input matters to us and makes a BIG difference.

So, on behalf of all our animals, staff and family, thank you for making 2014 a year to remember and heres to all the hugely exciting projects planned for 2015!

Lots of news and updates will follow very soon, so stay tuned!

Happy New Year and trunks of love to you all,
Katherine and the elephants xx

16 December 2014

16th December 2014 — Honouring our beautiful bulls on Father’s Day

In Thailand, the 5th December is the most important day on the calendar as it celebrates the birthday of His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej. The king of Thailand is the world’s longest reigning monarch and the people of Thailand show their deep admiration for their King, by celebrating Father’s Day on His birthday, as they recognize, love and respect their King as their leader, their protector — he is the father of the Kingdom of Thailand and all its people.

Every year on this day, BLES celebrates all our fathers, namely our mahouts and our two beautiful old bulls, Tong Jai who is 70 and Somai who is 68. Last year, we laid out an elaborate buffet for our two elderly boys of all their favourite treats and our mahouts, who we recognize as being the caregivers and protectors of our elephants, were given some of their favourite treats too — a box of beer, a pack of red bull and a lottery ticket each!

This year, our Father’s Day festivities have been slightly subdued, due to recent sad events surrounding both our bulls. Almost one month ago, Tong Jai was rushed to the elephant hospital in Lampang due to a suspected tusk fracture. Anon and I noticed blood dripping from Tong Jai’s trunk and swelling close to his eye. He went for four days refusing to drink. There was also a dramatic drop in the positioning of his right tusk and a complete change in his behaviour. He became jumpy and easily spooked, refusing to lie down at night and go on walks. We decided to move Tong Jai to the elephant hospital where he could be observed by the veterinarians, receive expert treatment and also where we could determine an accurate prognosis for Tong Jai’s loss of blood. On Thursday of last week, the vets decided that Tong Jai was strong enough to be sedated and undergo an endoscopy up through his trunk. X rays had failed to provide any information and so Tong Jai was put on daily IV fluids — Baytril x130ml, Metrogyl x30ml and Haemaccel x30ml and iron supplements to increase his red blood cell count.

Since arriving at the hospital, Tong Jai’s health has improved and he has gained 200kg in weight. Anon has been with Tong Jai every minute of every day, reassuring him through every step of his treatments. The endoscopy showed that there are two different types of puss forming high up in Tong Jai’s trunk. There has been a shift in the position of the tusk and the tissue is inflamed. The vets were unable to detect any fracture or break, but do suspect an abscess close to Tong Jai’s brain. If left untreated, this could eventually cause brain damage and of course sever pain and distress. Tong Jai is now on aggressive antibiotics and anti inflammatories, on top of the daily hydration fluids. So far Tong Jai has responded well to this treatment and Anon is now teaching Tong Jai to have trunk washes, which involves feeding a tube up through the nostrils of his trunk. Obviously we are all desperate to bring our magnificent tusker home, but it is comforting to know that for now and the foreseeable future, Tong Jai is receiving care from a dedicated team, headed by Anon, who we all know will do all he can to keep Tong jai as happy and comfortable as possible.

Two weeks ago, Somai gave us all an awful fright when he collapsed and appeared unable to stand. Once we had encouraged him to rise, we moved him in to our medical hut and administered IV fluids. Somai’s eyes rolled in to his head as he rested his huge trunk of the support frame. His legs continued to give way and all of us were terrified Somai had come to the end of his life’s journey and we were going to lose him. The next day, Somai was still refusing to eat and his stomach had become hugely bloated. We again moved Somai in to the medical hut and performed an enema, which successfully cleared a minor blockage. Elephants go through six sets of molar teeth, which regenerate themselves approximately every ten years. Once they reach their sixties and are on their final set of teeth, it is common for elephants to suffer from constipation as they are no longer able to grind down their food and digest it sufficiently. As Somai is in his late sixties, this is sadly going to be an ongoing worry for us all. However, thanks to a recent donation from our friends at the Mahouts Foundation BLES has been able to invest in an industrial food shredder for our Elder elephants. Here at BLES we have four elderly elephants, Somai (68), Tong Jai (70), NaamFon (63) and Boon Thong who is in her mid sixties and all of them have to be kept on a special diet consisting of more soft fruits than our other elephants. The food shredder has proved a huge success with our Elders and Naamfon in particular can not get enough of her breakfast consisting of shredded bamboo branches, sugar cane, ripe bananas, rice husks, rock salt and grass stems.

Thank you so much to the Mahouts Foundation for continuously supporting BLES and enabling us to provide the best possible care for all our elephants. Our Elders are eating well and defecating with more ease, thanks to you!

Although Somai did return to full health after this scare, rejoining the other elephants grazing in the forest, last week he took another dramatic decline and was rushed immediately to the elephant hospital in Lampang. Somai again collapsed, but this time was too weak to stand unaided. His stomach again began to swell and we all feared the worst… Driving him to the hospital (a six hour journey) was terrifying. Somai stood with his head resting on the side of the ambulance, his eyes closed and his mouth wide open. His back legs were trembling and twice gave way on him. We stopped on the side of the road and performed an emergency enema, which thankfully was successful and Somai seemed more comfortable. It was dark when we finally arrived at the hospital, but the vets and mahouts at TECC were ready to assist Somai in any way he needed. After examining him, we decided rest was best for Somai and treatment would start first thing the next morning. Somai was put on daily fluids — Bayrena x170 ml and a strict shredded food diet. He has made steady improvements and we welcomed him back home yesterday afternoon! Somai is still slow and we are keeping him off the walks for now, until he regains his strength, but it is so good to have our gentle old boy back home!

Our world famous Gossip Girls could be growing from three to four if Naamfon (our newest rescue) continues to shadow them as she has these past few weeks! Wassana and Pang Dow are eager to make friends with Naamfon, but Lotus is more reluctant and has made a point of trying to push Naamfon away on a number of occasions. Lotus deliberately puts herself in between Naamfon, and her two best friends, making sure they do not interact and pushes Naamfon away. Naamfon still tries to join the girls and today, Lotus finally showed signs of being submissive to Naamfon, which could mean she has finally accepted the new addition!

Pang Noi and Pang Suai have been climbing to the very tops of the hills and devouring all the fresh foliage up there. They have also been exploring on the two newest pieces of land BLES has recently been able to save, thanks to a fundraising campaign run on Facebook last month. There is nothing more important than land preservation as it not only benefits our rescued elephants, but it saves local wildlife and natural habitat, which would otherwise be destroyed. We can not thank you enough for your unshakable faith in BLES and everything we stand for. You have all played a key part in helping BLES grow and we simply wouldn’t be where we are today without you and your unbelievable ability to help us move mountains for our elephants.

Christmas is quickly creeping up on us and this year BLES will be handing out hampers full of goodies to our elderly community here in Baan Na Ton Chan on Christmas Day. Last year BLES collected donations from around the world and purchased clothes, toys, games and treats for the children at our local autistic school. We spent the afternoon playing with the children and helping them open their presents, which was a lot of fun for everyone! Listening to their laughter and holding their little hands was a personal highlight for me last year. This year I look forward to sitting with our local elders, hearing their stories and holding their hands, as my family and I give them blankets, mosquito nets and baskets of treats at our local temple.

BLES has had some technical issues this past month and all records of all bookings have been lost. If you have made a booking for 2015 and have already sent your deposit, please can we ask you to get back in touch, so we can figure out who is arriving, when and where they need picking up from!! Thank you for your patience and understanding — it has been a trying month, in many ways!!

Wishing you all lots and lots of love and laughter during the festive season.

Trunks of thanks for your support,
Katherine and the elephants xx