Every End is A New Beginning

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).



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….










  1. Leslie Jones · March 9, 2016

    Thank you, for everything you do to make this planet a better place, for all living things.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Henn Beavis · March 9, 2016

    Thank you so much BLES. The beautifully written account is wonderful. As you say, so many ups and downs. But the ups are winning. Much love to you all. xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Julie Mansini · March 9, 2016

    Thank you Katherine for your lovely heartwarming account of life at BLES. I always enjoy reading them immensely.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Randy Decker · March 10, 2016

    This place is heaven on earth. I wonder if you could help me…? I Would have given any money I could find to help the Zoo elephant Hanako from Japan… die with the dignity of freedom under her feet. To let her know that since 1949 the memories she has had of her mother and her wild life that must have been so hard to remember after a while with the noises and smells an sounds of Tokyo… By the time I was born in 1961 She had been imprisoned for 12 years already.. She was still young though…! but only saw those same views of the world for all that time… Man landed on the Moon and still she got older and lost more and more of herself to Japan… a Concrete enclosure was and still is her home… The Berlin Wall came down.. entire generations of people have come and gone and still she stood there every single day… The passage of so much time is incredible here. The trade towers came down in 2001 ! Still she stood… No one cared… I lived through my entire teenage years twenties thirties forties and now in my adult life after school, dating, marriage, raised a family, worked, and became 54 Someone saw her and took a picture of this old elephant that just stands all day and can’t wait to get back into her enclosure to eat..! She has no stimulation so this is her one and only joy..! She has long forgotten her Mother.. I am ashamed to even know I lived my whole life so far and she stood there…! No one cared.. There was an outcry and she got 420,000 Signatures on a petition that was begun to win her release to a sanctuary! Horray! The people who took up this cause…had one woman who was quite qualified to speak with the Japanese.. but sadly she did not fight in any way to have her released. They said she is to old to move and they agreed without one whimper or question! They got her some toys and a heater… She is 69… She is a beautiful girl! She is healthy..!@
    I have seen so many stories of Elephants with horrible problems, bad backs and legs ad they are even older yet they can make the difficult trip in a truck sometimes two day trips, fumes, cold, bad roads, bad bumps, noise, many stops and starts and corners.. and a traumatic experience but they do so well and it is the work of a higher power to see these old babies find peace and friendship and love and to know freedom and perhaps get some of the beautiful wild spirit that was taken from them back before they have to go.. I swear I am trying to change my life I’d like to sell everything I ave and come work there it seems such a worthy thing to do with a life…! Hanako is not to old to move You have proven this time and time again! ! Hanako is not that far away a Plane ride (WHICH CAN BE LESS STRESSFUL THAN A TRUCK BTW) and a truck ride and she’d be there… That zoo has taken her life.. She lost the ability to remember if the dreams she must have of her family were real or not ? She has given in and the Women who went to see her and represent the 420,00 People who all wanted her freedom, they said “SHE COMES ALIVE AT FEEDING TIME” well that means they have made her a walking food puppet…! Food is the only thing she has that gives her any joy or stimulation ! NO one thought the Japanese beat her every day, we are bitterly disappointed in the lack of real effort displayed here after such an outcry! They are good people but did not have any ability or desire to challenge this zoo on her behalf.. They told us all that “she is well taken care of” ! Well I say… WHO CARES! This was not the point.. it is the long stretch of time that broke everyone’s hearts! She deserves a sanctuary after being imprisoned since 1949.. Imagine the time since 1949..standing in the same place… and loosing a little of yourself every day.. every week… every month.. every year, after year, after year, after year… it is mind numbing.. The simple pleasure of feeling grass under her feet.. to know and remember herself again to find a friend.. (she has not touched another elephants for 67 years!) !!! My God! That zoo knows she will not live long. I would have appealed to the Japanese sense of Honor and asked them to see the undignified end it will be to let her drop on the concrete in that place in the next year…after given them her long beautiful life…! That would be a tragic end.. I think a plane or boat ride in good weather could be far easier and perhaps shorter, in duration… than the trips some of the old ladies you have there have made many times in the past in the back of a truck! Please know that Hanako will never get anyone to ever stand up for her again.. These women used up this one chance she had…! Again they are good people but Hanako needed someone to appeal to them on a more emotional level… ! and they did not tell everyone they really did not think she could be freed.. they never went there with a plan to ask this for her! I would,,,! I would still try and have them see how horrible it is to not let this fantastic old girl they displayed for so long find a piece of heaven before she goes. She is an African Elephant but at 69 I am sure she’d do well with the old ladies of your wonderful sacred place and she would at least.. know that her dreams of her family were actually real and not just something she made up to keep from going nuts…! I know you have elephants who have worse lives. but I also feel the long life sucking draw of 67 years in captivity is a mental hardship for an intelligent animal that make me cry when I think of the babies being taken now for zoo’s . Imagine how their little minds must wish and hope they will go back… and every day that hope becomes less until it is forgotten and food is your life! The long stand of time is a torture that is as bad as the pain of a bullhook… Am I asking to much for you to look into this? I would never want to offend you… But I worry. There has been talk that these women will look into Lucy’s situation in that cold zoo in Edmonton Canada… I will scream at them if they do the same thing there.. People have signed petitions and raised money to get her moved as well.. These two will go there and get her a blanket and a heater. (No offence to them personally….But a Big insult is intended for the effort and the outcome they accomplished) Believe me they have done great damage to elephants in zoo’s everywhere… It is the elephants lives that have been hurt here. and this is all I care about. Please don’t think for one minute All zoo’s (everywhere) did not watch this unfold… They will see now that the “SHE’s to old to move” excuse is easy to use… And these women have a fan club of people who make is easy for them to be heroes without accomplishing anything…! They helped every zoo to keep their imprisoned souls.
    Randy Decker


    • cambridgeratmom · March 10, 2016

      Randy, in all fairness, this is Katherine’s space and your unduly lengthy treatise on Hanako, as if it were Katherine’s to solve or resolve, doe not allow her to have her space. She runs BLES on a shoestring and has enough to keep her busy. What elephants she chooses to save are her choice and hers alone.

      Please find another forum for your thoughts. They are out there. And to diminish the work of Carol Buckley is unfathomable. I am sorry you have taken so much time to fill so much space on the wrong blog.


      • Henn Beavis · March 11, 2016

        Yes, we must never devalue anyones hard work. Katherine has crated a true haven.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Jo Winstone · March 11, 2016

      Randy, you obviously care passionately about Hanako,which is commendable, but this is not the page to vent you feelings. Carol Buckley has a wealth of experience and has ensured Hanako’s better wellbeing from now on. I suggest you address your concerns to her or EAI.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Jane Starratt · March 10, 2016

    I love reading about the never ending changes at Blesele! What you provide for animals in need is so special. I send you and the animals much love! May you be forever blessed!


  6. Maria Teresa Mauri · March 10, 2016

    A beautifully written update on BLES, thank you Katherine. 2015 was indeed a very tough year for you and I hope 2016 will more than make up for all the tragedy and sorrow you experienced in one awful year. It’s had a good start, 4 magnificent bulls who have added so much joy to your family of elephants, a beautiful monkey named Abu who must surely think she’s died and gone straight to heaven!!! I am so looking forward to my next visit to meet all the new additions to what is such a wonderful family of animals. I wish you all the very best for this year and for the many years to come.


  7. Jo Winstone · March 10, 2016

    Thank you so much for another beautiful, sensitively written blog Katherine. I know 3 November was absolutely devastating for everyone at BLES (and for thousands of your supporters) and at the time it seemed hard to imagine how you would recover from such heartbreak. I should have known…. four bulls and a monkey!!! No better tribute to Naamfon, Somai, Hugh, Peanut Butter and Marmite xxx


  8. Cristina Ribeiro · March 10, 2016

    Wonderful text, wonderful photos, wonderful BLES !!!!! Thank you for everything you do!!!!!!!


  9. Maria · March 10, 2016

    So glad to see BLES is full of life and thriving again. I admire your bravery in taking on four bulls. I have never seen anywhere take on so many. It looks like the environment they are in is keeping them relaxed and calm. Watching the wild bull elephants in Kui Buri was enlightening to see how the correct environment creates a natural peace. Keep doing your amazing work.



  10. womenflyvy · March 10, 2016

    You and BLES fill my heart with joy. Someday I’ll visit.


  11. Tiff · March 14, 2016

    Your blog is beautiful Katherine. I have just watched the tribute to Somsri and I am still in tears.

    The love and care you give to these beautiful dears is the inspiration and hope the world needs to see.


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