Beautiful and Strong, Boon Thong

My tears are falling fast and heavy tonight…

Beautiful, old and oh, so wise, Boon Thong, lay herself down this morning. She knew it was her time to let go…

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Boon Thong, after five years of living in sanctuary at BLES, where she was free to be in control of her own life, to make her own decisions, to express herself, to find a friend in her devoted mahout, Phi Gom, to rest her worn out body, to explore the forests of Sukhothai – put very simply – to be an elephant once more, has peacefully passed away.

Boon Thong was in her late sixties. A lady of substance, elegance and strength, she enjoyed her little morning routine. Every day, we would make her vitamin balls. Boon Thong would patiently wait, while Luke, my youngest son, would struggle to manage the sticky rice balls in his little hands and then lift them up to her. She always took her time eating them and I would always watch, smile and wonder, if she was buying Luke time…

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Boon Thong was a creature of habit. She had her favourite spots in our release areas that she would always gravitate to during our daily walks. She always scratched on the same tree and she always stopped at the same spot in the stream to throw mud all over herself.

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Boon Thong, with a life time of scars tarnishing her petite frame, was a constant surprise and inspiration to us all here at BLES. She looked like a frail and delicate soul, but she had the most vibrant inner strength and determination to make the most of  every day.

Saying Goodbye to Boon Thong was heartbreaking, yet heartwarming at the same time. I was so saddened to see my darling friend slipping away, but I was also so full of gratitude that we got to spend five whole years watching her thrive.

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I sat by her side for nine hours today. I massaged her legs and stroked the bristly hair on her head. I whispered words of love in to her ears and wiped the tears from her eyes, and then from mine… Losing someone we love, even when it is their time to go, even when they pass so peacefully, is just so hard.

Boon Thong has been buried beside Sontaya and close to Permpoon, Sao Noi and Naamfon. Five shining stars. Five soaring spirits. Five friends, we will always hold deep in our hearts…

Walk on Boon Thong, with your strong and distinctive stride, through the long grass, filling every field, as far as the eye can see…

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Be free forever, my sweet, darling, Boon Thong xx 

 

 

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Welcome Sappraiwan – Jewel of the Forest

I have the most exciting news to share with you all!

2018 has got off to the most spectacular start for us all here at BLES! After months of planning, we can finally announce that BLES has a brand new family member – Plai Sappraiwan!

Sappraiwan is a special and beautiful, fourteen year old bull, who has the most incredible life story.  He grew up with his mother, which is sadly a rarity in Thailand, if not most of Asia, as calves are often prematurely separated from their mothers and sold in to the tourism industry.
Sappraiwan’s mother, Saitong, was one of the first elephants to call The Sappraiwan Resort, her home, 17 years ago. Saitong was a street begging elephant, who was rescued by a kind hearted man, who at the time, was the owner of the Sappraiwan Resort. This man was so distraught by seeing elephants walking the streets of Bangkok, that he bought six of them and relocated them all to his then resort. A compassionate act of selflessness, that should have had a fairy tale ending…

Three years after being saved from the streets, Saitong gave birth to a strong and healthy bull, who was christened Sappraiwan – ‘Jewel of the Forest’, in honour of the resort. Sappraiwan was fortunate to be able to grow up with his mother constantly by his side and naturally separate from her when he came of age.

The original six rescued elephants, quickly bred and are now a biological herd of fourteen elephants, consisting of mothers, daughters, sisters, brothers, cousins…  There are three generations of elephants within this captive herd, which is remarkable.

Sappraiwan, who at fourteen years old, is now classified as a sexually mature bull, is unable to breed with any of the females at the resort, as he is related in one way or another, to all of them.  It has been confirmed by several specialists, that keeping Sappraiwan at the resort, constantly chained, surrounded by females that he can not freely interact with, could lead to him being increasingly frustrated and aggressive.

The elephant owner, now in his late seventies and eager to make things right for his beloved elephants, visited BLES last year and this was when conversations regarding Sappraiwan’s welfare began.
It was agreed that Sappraiwan could be relocated to BLES, where he would enjoy a chain free life and be allowed to interact with other elephants, both male and female.

BLES, being a true elephant sanctuary, does not breed or encourage our elephants to mate. The sole reason for relocating Sappraiwan to BLES, was to significantly improve his quality of life and welfare, by increasing his roaming time and allowing for social interactions.

Sappraiwan was safely relocated from the Sappraiwan Resort, to BLES, in early January 2018. His journey was smooth and that really is a tribute to his dedicated mahout, Phi Shamnan, who accompanied Sappraiwan throughout the journey.

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The next few months are going to be challenging, to say the least. One because the drag chain secured around Sappraiwan’s ankle, has not once been removed, over the last twelve years. Two, because Sappraiwan has a multitude of complex behavioural issues…

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We are taking this transitional stage very slowly with Sappraiwan and are so proud of the achievements we are already making together. Sappraiwan is a symbol of hope and reminds us what can be achieved when we allow compassion to lead us and put understanding before judgement.

I am so proud to welcome Sappraiwan to BLES and to now be solely responsible for his upbringing. It is a true honour, to have worked together with Sappraiwan’s owner and his family, the mahouts at Sappraiwan Resort and David Owen, who was instrumental in co ordinating and managing Sappraiwan’s relocation to BLES.
I am deeply thankful to everyone involved, for entrusting Sappraiwan to me and my skilled team of mahouts and confident we will soon start to see him thrive.

Sappraiwan’s arrival to BLES has been the best start to the new year and I am excited to post updates on his recovery journey, to rediscovery.

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As always, trunks of thanks to everyone for your continued faith and support – we would not be where we are today, without every single one of you. Thank you for being the change and creating a chance for the captive elephants of Thailand.