26 August 2014
25th August 2014
The BLES family is about to get bigger… I am delighted to confirm we are rescuing another elephant!
Pretty Permpoon (Infinity) is 52 years old. She started off her working life as a timber elephant here in the village of Baan Tuek and was then sold in to the tourism trade in the early 90’s. Permpoon has 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. But, all of this is coming to an end for Permpoon and her new life, as a real elephant, is about to begin.
I actually met Permpoon last November, when I was on a reach trip in Phuket. She was tied up on a very short chain, outside a shabby looking camp. She was surrounded by building materials, motorbikes, young calves in shackles, displaying stereotypical behaviour and trash. She gently swayed side to side, pausing every now and then to watch the bus loads of tourists clamber all over her friends… I remember looking at her then and feeling her exhaustion. It weeped down her hollow cheeks along with tears of depression and loneliness. I asked one of the mahouts if she was sick, as she wasn’t saddled up with the ghastly chair, waiting to be ridden for the umpteenth time. He replied that she was old and weak…I left a name card at the camp, said a silent goodbye to all the elephants, telling them to stay strong and left. As the months passed by, I often thought back to the petite, pretty lady, wondering how she was, wishing Phuket was so much closer, so I could go and see her. At the beginning of August, Our local government vet came to see us and told us about an elderly elephant in Phuket. She was too weak to work and the owners wanted to sell her to us, because they knew we would take good care of her and keep her permanently retired. They had considered selling her to other people, but did not believe they would stay true to their word and keep Permpoon rested.
So, we travelled down to Phuket and met with the owner, who kept asking us to promise we would not work her. She told us she had owned Permpoon for many years and felt guilty that she had been worked so hard. We got in our hire car and followed the owner up a windy road and although it all felt very familiar to me, I still did not think the elephant we were about to see was the dejected and despondent girl I had seen nine month previous. We parked outside a camp. I immediately recognized it. Straight away, my eyes darted to where the old elephant had been chained, but her place was vacant. A few minutes later, a beautiful, smallish and friendly looking elephant was lead to us. She reached out to me with her curious trunk and began tucking into the sacks of fruit we had purchased at the market along the way. I watched her, looked her body over and then our eyes met. It was then that I realized I had been in her enchanting presence before. Permpoon, was the elephant I had enquired about all those months ago! Permpoon clearly felt immediately comfortable with us as she moved forward (with no concept of our personal space!!), mouth wide open, waiting for us to hand feed her sweet bananas and small pineapples. Her ears were bloody and when I looked behind me, I saw the mahout had a big hook. I blew a kiss into her ear and whispered to her the days of hooks, traffic and chains were numbered. She looked at me wide eyed and all knowingly. She of course understood exactly what I meant.
We checked over her papers and microchip ID. I called the government officials in Lampang and had them double check her history. They confirmed she had once been a logger in the village of Baan Tuek and that she had been sold in to tourism in Chiang Mai, but now lived in Phuket. There was no record of contagious disease or illness and her age was agreed to be 52. We handed out treats to the other elephants working in the camp, trying to ease their suffering for just a few minutes and then said, ‘See you soon’ to pretty Permpoon. We already have the funds ready for Permpoon’s purchase, but need extra funds to cover all the travel expenses. This will be a big trip. It will take us two days to drive back with Permpoon and we are organizing for a vet to travel with us and for a safe place to stop for the night, so Permpoon can have a break during the journey.
All of us here at BLES are very excited and thankful to be rescuing another elephant. The fact that the owners sought us out, really says so much about how we are making a positive impact in the elephant world here in Thailand. The owners have no intention to buy another elephant. They are elderly themselves. Instead, they are going to divide up the money and share it equally between their adult children and grandchildren.
Thank you on behalf of Permpoon for making her rescue possible. Now, we had better start getting things organized!!
Trunks of thanks for your love and support,
Katherine and the elephants xx