13 September 2014
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