“Home is a place where your feet might leave, but your heart will always be”….
Nwon is a sixty year old bull, who is blind in one eye. On the 1st December 2015, he was one of four bulls from our local village of Baan Tuek, to come to BLES, as part of a retirement plan. You can read all about how the four bulls, Nwon, Ngor, Mr Moo and Sompord, came to be at BLES here – https://blesele.wordpress.com/2015/11/16/the-bulls-of-baan-tuek/
When the owners of the four bulls approached BLES and asked for our help, we knew we had to act quickly. There was no time to launch a fundraiser to buy the bulls, as their combined worth would have been a substantial amount to raise. It would have been unrealistic to raise such an ambitious amount and risky to expect the owners to wait for the funds to be raised, before bringing their bulls to BLES.
So, BLES came to an agreement with the owners, that the bulls would be leased on a permanent basis. The agreement was verbal and as I have stated before, this is how we have always and will always handle negotiations – based on trust and the belief that we are all working together for the good of the animals. I know there will be many people out there who will find this approach laughable and I understand why in your world, this management style would not be acceptable. However, the fact is, in our rural community, this is how business has always been conducted.
This method has never failed me, until very recently…
I was shocked and appalled to my core, when the owner of Nwon came to me on the morning of the 28th September 2016, to tell me that people were coming to collect Nwon and take him to Surin. I had to ask her to repeat herself three times, as I just couldnt comprehend what she was saying. After almost 12 months of BLES caring and providing for Nwon, she was going back on her word and even worse – she went behind our backs and sold Nwon.
I was confused, furious and devastated – how could she be so deceitful and not give a single thought to Nwon’s welfare? I see now, that she was only thinking about money. We will never know why she acted the way she did, but in a way, to me, none of that matters anymore, because after our most powerful fundraising campaign to date, Nwon is back at BLES – he is home.
I left BLES with my amazing team of mahouts at 4am. We were all in the one truck and it was such a bumpy ride! We laughed and chatted as the night sky faded away and the sun started to rise and I knew we were all feeling the same emotions – pride and excitement. I kept looking over at Phi Nit, who beamed back at me every time he caught my eye. He was so animated and I couldnt wait for him to be reunited with Nwon again.
It took us 16 hours to get to Surin. We were achey and exhausted, but eager to see our boy. We walked out, through the small village, towards a grassy area. Nwon was there, secured beside a lake and he looked well. I had been so nervous as we neared Surin, wondering what kind of state Nwon would be in. Worrying that he would be wounded… I was so relieved to see Nwon look strong, calm and content. His owners had taken good care of him and there was not a single injury or scar on him.
Phi Nit walked straight up to Nwon and wrapped his arms around Nwon’s front leg. He held on to him for several minutes and as I watched him with tears in my eyes, I realised he was crying too. Phi Nit then rubbed Nwon down and kept reaching up to Nwon’s face, talking to him the entire time. Nwon, who had been happily eating, froze and then started smelling Phi Nit and purring. He shook his head and roared and it was one of the most spectacular sights. Nwon remembered his old friend, Phi Nit and was clearly very happy to see him. Phi Nit walked towards me, wiping big tears from his eyes and thanked me for bringing Nwon home. He told me he loved him very much and would never leave his side… I hadnt realised until that moment, that the Bring Nwon Back to BLES campaign, wasnt just about bringing Nwon back home, it was about bringing back two friends, who had been cruelly separated… The love that Phi Nit has for Nwon is beautiful.
It took us all day to get the paperwork sorted out. Once everything was in place, the owners prepared a big dinner for us to celebrate Nwon’s journey back home.
Nwon walked on to the truck easily and he remained calm and patient throughout the 14 hour drive back to BLES.
As we were driving up the road to BLES, I opened the window, to smell the morning air. The sun was rising and I looked up at Nwon behind me and he was also smelling the air. I could feel his deep purrs and a rush of excitement shot through my body – he knew he was home!!
We were greeted by lots of trumpets from the other elephants and as soon as Nwon was unloaded from the truck, he started grazing and dusting himself down. Phi Nit then led him to the hose, so he could have a cooling drink. Nwon’s trunk was high in the air again and I knew exactly what he was thinking – “Where are my girls?”
We had prepared a huge welcome home buffet for Nwon and as soon as he started to enjoy it, Pang Suai and Pang Noi came hurriedly down the hill and greeted their old friend with lots of gentle touches and purrs. The three of them stood, shoulder to shoulder, eating all the different fruits that had been laid out in a heart shape for them.
I sat on the grass watching them and once again found myself wiping away tears. Tears of pride, relief, joy and exhaustion. This was an epic and emotional journey. From the moment I announced Nwon’s departure from BLES, to launching the fundraiser, to driving through the night to Surin, to seeing Phi Nit and Nwon being reunited, to being in the grass, at BLES watching Nwon live like a real elephant again… Every sleepless night, every critical comment, every stress filled minute – it was ALL worth it. I love what I do and will never stop fighting for a compassionate world.
I can not thank everyone who played a part in bringing Nwon home to BLES enough. We would never have been able to liberate Nwon without you and your incredible support. Once again, the BLES family has proved what can be accomplished when a community of kind hearted and like minded people, come together. I am so proud of you all. I am so proud of Phi Nit, but most of all, I am so, so, so, proud of our beautiful old boy, Nwon.
Welcome home darling boy… We are your forever home now, your sanctuary and you are so loved xx