Katherine’s Journal

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

12 August 2014

Today marks the birthday of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand. All of us here at BLES wish Her Majesty the happiest of birthdays and a day full of love and laughter with her family. Today is also the day mothers throughout Thailand are celebrated and respected by their loved ones. On this special day, I wish you all, weather you are mothers of two, three or four legged a children, a very Happy Mother’s Day.

Life has been noisy here at BLES since I last wrote an update. Most mornings now, we have Lom and Mee Chok’s excited roars and shrills to start our day, as they come charging down in the mornings. They race to the hose and try to pull it out of each other’s trunks frantically, before Doh (their mahout) turns on the water. Lom really does make me smile. She makes a fuss and tries to grab the hose first, but quickly stands back and waits ever so patiently for Mee Chok to have a drink. We all know she will stand back and let the light of her life, Mee Chok, quench his thirst first. We also know that Lom could out run Mee Chok in a heartbeat, but would she? No! Lom lets Mee Chok win the daily race down to the hose every single time! She is happy to let Mee Chok have the lime light and she is in her element, in her big sister role to Mee Chok, letting him run wild. I know she is just as proud of him as we are.

It has been a tough year for our little Mee Chok, what with breaking his tusk off in January, being at the elephant hospital in Lampang the month of February, coming home and going through daily treatments to keep the sulcus as clean as possible. Not being allowed in the river, pond or mud with his family group, in case of causing himself greater injury… In June, we operated on Mee Chok to extract the remaining infected tusk that was stuck in the sulcus. It was a major procedure and we had the worlds best veterinarian dental specialist, Dr Cedric Tutt, fly over from South Africa, to carry out the procedure, with the assistance of the Thai vets. Now, two months after the extraction, Mee Chok is finally pain and stress free. He is back to being a cheeky and boisterous boy, hanging out with Lotus, heading down to the streams with Somai, playing in the pond with Pang Tong and loving every minute of his life, with his best friend and surrogate sister, Lom. It is nothing short of a miracle how quickly Mee Chok has recovered. It is a huge relief see him in full health, back out on the walks, causing endless amounts of mischief and hearing his happy growls again.

The Gossip Girls (Wassana, Lotus and Pang Dow) have had a lot to talk about lately too. Wassana was treated to an extensive pedicure on her damaged foot by the vets from TECC and as always, she was the ideal patient. Lotus and Pang Dow kept coming to check on their friend, but were easily distracted by the fresh delivery of papayas that happened to arrive at the same time! Wassana, whose foot was badly damaged by a live land mine years before she was rescued by BLES, will need constant care and monitoring for the rest of her life. Luckily, we are here to give her that care. It is just so heart warming to hear these three beautiful girls express themselves and communicate so freely. Their uninterrupted squeaks, trumpets, purrs and roars are a constant source of delight at BLES. Their funny antics, such as the day Pang Dow thought it would be a good idea to creep up on Tong Jai who was reaching for the fig tree branches, and then when he turned to look at her, Pang Dow and Wassana (who was trying her best to hide behind Pang Dow) ran for their lives and bolted straight towards Lotus, who had stayed a safe and sensible distance away from the drama! Meanwhile, Tong Jai was left looking rather bewildered…

Pang Suai and Pang Noi have also been vocalizing more recently. I wonder if it is the rain that makes the elephants sing? Pang Suai walked into a very sharp branch and we have been treating her with eye washes and drops, numerous times a day. She had a small blister on her eyeball and the eye was watering profusely, but she is much better now. This is not the first time Pang Suai has done this and we are beginning to think she is partially sighted in that eye.

Boon Thong, our glorious old girl, has been looking very well lately. She is such a sweet elephant and has her favourite spots where she likes to graze. She has really bonded with her mahout, Phi Chad and likes to go and check on him, when he is lying in his hammock, during the daily walks. She is comfortable being around all of our elephants now, including Mee Chok and she is just as comfortable in her own company. It is touching, to watch her move round the sanctuary, breaking off the branches from the mango trees, scratching her back on the low hanging branches, kicking up dirt and throwing it over her back, at her own dirt hole, that she created herself — she is in her element here at BLES…

The BLES family has grown again and we are so thrilled to be able to provide sanctuary for not one, but two pigs! Peppa is a large female adult pig who had been kept in a 2×2 metre concrete cell, with no sunshine, fresh air, trees, grass, fresh water, space… She never got to see the birds or hear the natural sounds of the forest — all she knew were the grey walls of her prison cell. Mr Pip is a three month old piglet, who was saved from being ravaged by dogs, when he was less than one month old. The farmer who found him, brought him home, treated his wounds and quickly fell in love with him. When the farmer heard BLES had rescued Peppa, he got in touch with us immediately asking if we could take in his piglet. Of course, we said yes! Mr Pip has settled in very well and has quickly become everyone’s favourite porker! He was castrated last week and when his new enclosure, complete with a connecting door to Peppa’s enclosure, is finished, we will be able to introduce the two pigs to each other!

On the 9th August, I was invited to speak at the annual Thai Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (TSPCA) seminar. I spoke about elephants used in tourism, how we could make positive changes towards a kinder environment in the tourist camps, how we could educate tourists about the abuse behind the shows and riding and why the BLES model was a success. There was an extensive Q&A session after my presentation and the room, filled with 27 independent organizations from all over Thailand, was in tears when I had finished. The TSPCA representatives thanked me for helping the elephants and extended an invitation for me to speak at next year’s seminar.

It is such a blessing to be able to give back to the animals what is rightfully theirs and I have to thank all of you out there, for supporting us and giving us the ability to find the resources to provide care, protection and freedom for our elephants, cows, pigs, dogs, cats and tortoises. We can not continue to grow without you, so from the bottom of my heat, thank you for giving us the strength and power to strive forward in creating positive changes for the elephants.

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