Eleven years ago, Anon and I overheard an old man complaining about his ‘stupid and lazy’ elephant. Anon approached the old man, introduced himself and asked if we could go to see his elephant. The old man eventually agreed and together, we embarked on a life changing journey….
Tong Jai, meaning heart of gold, was deep out in the forest, when we found him. He was emaciated, depressed and had a badly infected, large, maggot infested wound, on his spine.
It was clear that Tong Jai needed our help. We set straight to work and were able to successfully relocate Tong Jai to BLES, in no time at all.
Tong Jai’s skeletal frame, was covered in puncture wounds, scars and even bullets. His ears were torn and cut and his skin was dry and damaged. A visiting vet examined Tong Jai and claimed that he wouldnt live longer than three months. Locals laughed at us, telling us we had wasted our money and some people nicknamed him the ‘Ugly’ elephant.
Anon and I ignored them all and surrounded Tong Jai with all the love and compassion we could. Anon became Tong Jai’s key caregiver and the two of them quickly developed a deep devotion to each other. Their relationship was unique and under Anon’s unwavering care, Tong Jai began to thrive. He slowly gained weight, he started going in to musth, his physical and physcoligical wounds healed and he started to socialise with our other rescued elephants. By trusting in Anon, Tong Jai was able to be a true elephant once more.
Over the past eleven years, Tong Jai’s health took many turns. Anon was always right there, faithfully beside him, often caring for him around the clock, through the night, come rain or shine.
Friends, it is with a very heavy ache in my soul, that I share the news of Tong Jai’s passing.
Tong Jai had been slowing down and losing weight three weeks prior to his death. We could all see that his impressive old age, (late seventies) and the cruelties of captivity, were finally taking their eternal toll on him.
Tong Jai passed away so peacefully. Anon and Tong Jai had been out slowly walking through the forest, grazing and dusting. Tong Jai didnt walk far or eat much, but he was at peace and in control of his life. He spent the afternoon lying in the pond, every now and then blowing cool water over his boney body. Anon and Tong Jai then walked home, taking their time to appreciate every moment, completely at ease in each other’s company. Tong Jai found himself a comfortable place to lie down and as the sun set, Anon lit a small fire beside him, to help warm his worn out body.
Two hours later, Tong Jai’s steady breathing slowed and then stopped. His eyes were closed and his huge body was glowing from the warm light of the fire. Anon and I sat with him, telling him how loved and cherished he was. We reminisced about all the years gone by and all the treasured memories we now had, thanks to Tong Jai. We both wiped away tears, as we waited for the eventual and inevitable passing of our friend.
Tong Jai’s time with us, was such a gift. We were honoured to have been able to provide him with true sanctuary and see him thrive.
Over the past eleven years, Tong Jai became a much loved part of our family. He was a living legend, who evoked awe inspiring emotions, if you were ever lucky enough to be in his company. He had a presence like no other bull and seeing him stride through the sanctuary, literally made you hold your breath…
And so we say goodbye, to a truly wonderful being, who taught us the importance of staying strong, the beauty of proving people wrong and the power of trusting in friendship.
BLES your beautiful heart Tong Jai… Forever in our hearts – Forever loved xx