Life is a never ending circle of highs and lows, good and bad, sweet and sour, hot and cold… Life presents us with challenges. Life thrusts us out of our comfort zones, forcing us to face things that frighten us, but that in turn, strengthens us.
Last year, BLES went through many heartbreaking experiences. The death of our darling Naamfon, then just two weeks later, the unexpected death of our founding patriarch, Somai, paired with the agony of losing three of our dogs – all on the same sad day.
I am not afraid to share with you that BLES hit an all time low following these tragic events. The sanctuary felt so empty and the air was filled with grief and sorrow. It felt like we would never move on from our shared mourning…
I am a firm believer in that old saying, ‘When one door closes, another will open”, but sometimes walking through a new and unknown door can be daunting.
The day after Somai passed, I was presented with a new door. Four bull elephants from our village needed saving. Ngor (70s), Nwon (60s), Moo (50s) and Sompord (30s).
FOUR BULL ELEPHANTS???
FOUR BULL ELEPHANTS!!!!!
Managing bulls in captivity is tough. They are harder to handle due to the frequent change in their hormone levels, commonly known as ‘musth’. Bulls are dangerous and finding skilled, experienced and open minded mahouts to care for bulls humanely is hard. I knew the world of ‘elephant experts’ would think we were crazy for taking in four adult bulls and a few people tried to talk us out of taking them in. But, there was no way I was going to let those boys and their owners down. We talked endlessly with the owners of the bulls and they each agreed to permanently retire the bulls and bring them to BLES.
The bulls have been with us just over three months now and life at BLES is full again. We now provide sanctuary for 16 elephants and as challenging as that can be, it is also such a joy. It is an incredible honour to be in the presence of these magnificent bulls and their retirement is the ultimate tribute to our old boy Somai.
It has been captivating watching Ngor and Sompord learn how to interact with the females of BLES. Ngor is particularly endearing. He takes his time, smelling and gently touching the girls. He is just as curious about them, as they are about him. This is the first time Ngor has ever been around female elephants. He allows Pang Suai and Pang Noi to lead the interactions and recently, Thong Dee has also expressed a keen interest in our old gent! Every new day, presents more surprises as our rescued elephants rediscover themselves and each other.
Moo is a bit more laid back. He likes to watch the older females, in particular, Boon Thong and Permpoon. He always moves to wherever they happen to be grazing and keeps an eye on them. If they move, he follows and it is heartwarming to see our old ladies growing in confidence too.
Nwon has been in musth since he arrived. He has watched the other elephants from a distance, but really his only interest right now is food – sugarcane to be exact! Nwon is the biggest of the four bulls and comes to us with a history of known aggression. We are managing his integration very slowly, always ensuring the safety of all our other elephants.
BLES is a home for ALL. We firmly believe that all life matters and strive on a daily basis to enrich the lives of all the animals in our care. We have an ever growing multi species family here at BLES, including dogs, cats, cows, tortoises, boars and now, a monkey too!
Abu is thought to be around seven years old. She has spent her entire life trapped in a small cage that was welded shut. She arrived in the empty cage, hanging on to the sides, possibly not wanting to touch the carpet of trash that lined the bottom of it. She paced continuously and displayed signs of frustration and understandable aggression. Abu had been a pet, kept in the dark and taunted by people non stop. Her owners realised they could not meet Abu’s welfare needs and so turned to BLES for help.
Abu has now been freed of her small cage and is enjoying her huge new enclosure which is full of enrichment. The enclosure is half an acre and boasts a private pool, a high room, trees, logs, tunnels, swings, hammocks and even baby car seats!!
The day we released Abu in to her new enclosure was life changing for us, every bit as it was for her. Again, people told us we were mad keeping a monkey, but the whole reason BLES is here is to provide and protect all beings in need. Watching Abu run her toes through the dirt for the first time in seven years reaffirmed in us that we make a pure and positive change for all the animals who find their way to us.
Abu is now thriving and loves to sit as high as she possibly can and watch the world go by. She no longer paces or plucks out her own hair. She has ceased over grooming herself and is so busy exploring her new home, she sometimes misses the elephants as they wander by…
As the months of 2016 roll by, I am left feeling a deep sense of pride and gratitude. Sometimes, when we are forced to face tough times, it can be hard to ever imagine feeling whole again. Well, the bulls and now Abu, have taught me that new beginnings are often disguised as painful endings. Life is a hoop of ups and downs, of heartache and happiness….