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6 Years of Elephants at BEES and 6 Years of Retirement for Mae Kam!

Written by Em. Posted in bees blog

Happy Anniversary

Well, What can we say, it’s hard for us to put it into words!

June 1st 2018 marks BEES 6 year Anniversary of having elephants at BEES and Mae Kam’s 6 Years of retirement at BEES!

The past 6 years have been filled with tears of happiness, sadness, fear, pain, anger, exhaustion, frustration and hope. It seems to be an endless cycle of emotions, an uphill battle, windy roads and many obstacles that always come onto the path.

We had no idea where BEES would lead us but what we did know was that we wanted to work towards an end to the exploitation and abuse of elephants and animals in Thailand. The captive elephant situation is extremely complex and cannot be fixed overnight, step by step we work to improve welfare and work towards positive change.

Fluffy giving rides

Fluffy aka Paa Oowan was a riding elephant down south near the beaches, she was used as a photo prop for weddings and as a taxi around the fruit farm where she worked. Fluffy retired to BEES on 14th October 2017 and sadly passed away on the 15th January 2018 at peace in her sanctuary.

When we started we had very little support, we were working with our own personal savings and we feared that we may not succeed. We started off by visiting camps and villages where there were elephants, talking to elephant owners and trying to convince them to stop using their elephants for work and we would provide them an alternative income in line with what the camps were offering them. Many laughed in our faces at the idea of having their elephants comes to BEES were tourists would not ride them. Some of the owners said that if they didn’t ride and use the elephants every day they would become wild and would no longer be useful, other owners said we were crazy and tourists would never come.

Thong Dee foraging in the grass field

Retired Elephant Thong Dee has lived with us here at BEES since Nov 2014. She spends her days munching away and just enjoying being an elephant. No rides, No tricks, Just an elephant being an elephant

In May 2012 we met Mae Kam and her owner and his family and everything changed. The family had been struggling and was planning to send Mae Kam back to work because they needed the income. They had brought Mae Kam home nearly 2 years prior and she had been chained in a small patch of forest above their farm. They had brought her home as she had become aggressive in the camp and started shaking tourists from her back.  The reason why is truly heartbreaking. The owner told us the reason Mae Kam had become so aggressive in the camp was because her calf had died from a cobra bite. To separate her from the deceased calf she was badly beaten by camp staff. This took it’s toll on Mae Kam’s physical and psychological health.

After 2 years in the forest the owner thought he and his family had no other option but to send her back to work, they desperately needed the income. Then we came along and offered them an alternative. The alternative – We pay them monthly rent, in line with what the camps had to offer and Mae Kam would come to BEES to live in a more natural environment, no riding, no tricks and they would have the monthly ‘rent’ income to provide for their family. They were very happy with our offer and on the 29th May 2012, Mae Kam began her journey to BEES. It was a 2.5 day walk from Khun Yuam, Mae Hong Son.

In 2015 Mae Kam became a permanent member of BEES you can read about it here -

https://www.facebook.com/BEESElephants/posts/1837545802975745

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Mae Kam opened a new door and ever since we have had elephants join us for rest and care under rental contracts as well as elephants we have permanently rescued.

Thailand has around 4,000 Captive Elephants, many of them are used for work in tourist camps, as entertainers and giving rides, some are still used today for logging and farming. Luckily there are more and more elephants going to projects across the country, working to give them better lives and move away from cruel unnatural practices.

When we first started researching and visiting elephant projects, most places if not all, including sanctuaries/ rescue centers that we visited, chained the elephants at night. Since we began BEES, we too have had no choice but to use a long single length chain to secure the elephants at night only. The main reason we had to secure the elephants at night with chains had been due lack of funding to build enclosures and no other options. You simply cannot allow elephants to just free roam at night, it’s not safe.

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An elephant we met back in 2011 waiting to be saddled up and give rides early one morning. Sadly, Mae Kat passed away before we were able to get her to retirement.

Right from the beginning ALL elephants that have come to BEES have been free from work, receive good quality care, have the ability to spend each day enjoying a natural environment, foraging, dust and mud bathing, splashing in the water, socialise with others on their terms and have had the ability to just be elephants. No riding, no tricks, just elephants being elephants. Each elephant has had their own carer – the mahout, hired by BEES who walks with them every day and keeps them safe and out of harm’s way. They have needed to spend nights ‘secured’ by a long, single length chain to a sturdy tree, to give their carer a good rest and keep them safe, stop them from wandering onto nearby farmlands and risk being injured or worse. Local farmers won’t hesitate to protect their crops, it’s their livelihood and for example could poison, stab or shoot an elephant to stop them from destroying their farm.  The night chains have always been long to allow them good movement, to lay down, move away from their feces etc. It’s not ideal, but we have been trying our best to move away from night chains. Read on to see what we have been up to…. ….

fLUFFY USING THE NIGHT ENCLOSURE

Sweet Fluffy in her night enclosure one afternoon. Fluffy passed away on January 15th 2018. She was a beautiful elephant, her body was damaged and broken after years of work. She was able to finally rest in her sanctuary.

Many of our long term supporters will know that in November 2015 we held a fundraising event in Brisbane, Australia and began a campaign online to raise funds to build night enclosures here at BEES. For a long time we have wanted to phase out the use of night chains at BEES. Many other organizations with big supporters and that have been running far longer than BEES, had already begun to take the chain-free approach. Although we are only small, we wanted to join them and show that we are 100% committed to the welfare of the elephants. We had many wonderful donors on the fundraising evening and online to the campaign; but unfortunately we didn’t raise the amount needed within the time frame we had hoped for. It took until late 2016 to raise enough funds to be able to start planning cheaper smaller designs and slowly but surely we raised the funds to start building.

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The grass field in 2011 and now. More trees and a night enclosure :)

Thong Dee now spends her time chain free, roaming the grass field, the stream and the flatter forest terrain by day and resting in the night enclosure by night.  Mae Mor who was rescued in March 2017 was able to spend the final months of her life, free roaming during the day and in a chain-free night enclosure by night, before passing on 30th August 2017.  Fluffy was rescued in October 2017 and she too was able to spend her final days free roaming and her nights chain-free, before passing on 15th January 2018.

Fluffy going to heaven

Fluffy surrounded by love and light moments after she passed, she was laying inside the night enclosure.

Up until recently we only had the funding to complete the two night enclosures which have been used by Thong Dee, Mae Mor and Fluffy. After Fluffy passed there was an enclosure available, so it was time to introduce Mae Kam to the area and see how she liked it, the other elephants had all been very interested in the enclosure at first and did try to find ways out, but soon they got used to the areas and stopped trying.

Mae Kam on the other hand is young and boisterous at heart and for an elephant of 60 years old, she still has a surprising amount of strength.  Mae Kam figured out exactly where to ram the gate and got out within the first few nights, we would fix it and she would find a way to break through again. Most recently she damaged a large part of that same enclosure, taking out two poles and escaping.

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The damaged night enclosure. Mae Kam is still young and boisterous at heart. She may be 60 years old but she has the strength of a bull!

BROKEN GATE

The mangled gate of the night enclosure, Mae Kam figured out the exact spot she needed to bend in order to get out.

Each time she had damaged the enclosure and got out, we have had no choice but secure her on the night chain, until we could have the damaged fence repaired. It’s really important to remember that each individual elephant has a unique personality and has had different traumatic experiences in their past. For some elephants new surroundings can take some time to get used too. Mae Kam has been conditioned to be secured on the chain every evening of her life for the past 60 years, she has known no different. Placing her in a weird man made structure has been challenging for her  to accept and when she is on the chain she is calm and content in her surroundings.

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Mae Kam enjoying her 6 year retirement at BEES Fruit Cake in her brand new, specially designed night enclosure.

In April the workers were available and we had enough funding available. So, we started building a specially designed enclosure for Mae Kam. It’s built with the poles closer together, hopefully making it more sturdier (Mae Kam-proof) and it has a dirt/rock wall on one of the sides so she feels like she is in a more natural place. For many evenings since Mae Kam has been here she was secured in the area that we have now built her new enclosure. She seems very relaxed and comfortable there. She enjoys rubbing her body against the dirt/rock wall and digging at it with her trunk to have a dust bath. We have just started to introduce her to this new area now that it has the fence. We hope that she will soon learn that it is a safe place for her and we can move away from the chain completely.

Trumpets from the elephants in thanks for your support!

Mae Kam having a fabulous time in Maechaem river

So we now have 3 chain-free night enclosures, two elephants permanently retired at BEES and are fundraising to bring more elephants home.

Our job is not easy, running a sanctuary is a challenge, but its also highly rewarding when you see an animal learn to trust and flourish in a loving more natural environment. At BEES we rescue and provide a place of rest and care for not just elephants, but we are also provide a home to all animals in need. We believe that in order to teach love and respect for elephants, you must also love and respect all life. We currently have 19 rescued dogs, 14 rescued cats and a juvenile Dollarbird in care that will be released as soon as he can fly. We also provide outreach care to domestic animals in the local community, by running spay/neuter clinics, providing preventative vaccines, in the village treatment, we also bring animals into temporary care and take them to Chiang Mai for diagnostics and emergency surgeries when needed and return them to their owners once they are better and can continue treatment at home.

Taken at BEES where elephants can live and BE elephants!

Beautiful Mae Kam peaking through tree branches while enjoy her day out foraging in the forest.

We will always strive to do the best we can for the elephants and animals in need. In the future with a lot of support from the global community we hope to build an animal hospital here in Maechaem, buy a large area of land for an animal shelter for stray animals. Our main goals with the help of BEES Elephant Foundation – BEF we are hoping to continue to establish safe havens for elephants by buying more land, building more chain-free enclosures and working towards a future of no more suffering and exploitation.

Thank you to each and every person that has joined us on this journey by supporting us, through every like, share, donation, visit to BEES and doing what you can to spread the word.

We can’t do what we do without you. Please continue to spread the word and donate to help us continue on our mission:

Donate here: https://www.simplygiving.com/NonProfit/BEESElephantFoundation

Trumpets, Rumbles, Grumbles of Thanks,

Burm, Emily and All of us here at BEES

Fluffy Finds Freedom!!!

Written by Em. Posted in bees blog

Fluffy

♥FLUFFY♥

What an EPIC time we have had here recently!

By working in the animal welfare world, we have made the choice to be a part of the uplifting and highly enriching gains and the absolutely devastating losses.  Each day, each week, each month is different and we never really know what is around the corner.

We heard about Fluffy earlier in the year and had been working to find a way to bring her to retirement. It has been a very challenging time for us these past few months with the loss of Mae Mor, but she was never far from our thoughts.

We launched the Elephant Rescue Appeal on Simply Giving to start raising funds to rescue & retire more elephants to BEES Sanctuary on the 27th September. At this time Fluffy was already on our minds. We had been to visit her in the south and dreamed of helping her. We had worried that we wouldn’t be able to raise enough funds to bring her to retirement. Fundraising is not an easy task. Although, we have so many amazing supporters, sometimes we don’t reach our goal when we fundraise through the BEES Elephant Foundation – BEF, meaning we have to pull together funds of our own, creating great strain on our sanctuary finances.

Something AMAZING happened just 48 hours after launching the Simply Giving – Elephant Rescue Appeal! We were approached by Canadian NGO International Wildlife Protection – IWP with a sponsorship proposal to rescue and retire an elephant. We shared Fluffy’s story with IWP and they agreed that Fluffy needed retirement so that she would never have to work again.

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Fluffy at work

Fluffy aged at approximately 60 years of age was bought by her owners in the late 1980’s when logging was first banned in Thailand. It was a time when elephant trekking was the only other option for domesticated elephants and having an elephant was seen as a good investment which would bring much needed income to families for their survival.

Khun Ed, Fluffy’s owner has been working with her since he was 12 years old. His father had brought her to the village to work with their family and bring them an income. Recently, they had noticed Fluffy was aging and she had slowed down. She was stiff and had very poor digestion. The family expressed the need to sell her so that it would enable them to resolve their financial debt and set up for the future of their young children, but also, they knew in their hearts that it was time for Fluffy to stop working. They were so happy to know that she would be going to a place of true retirement. Being an elephant owner isn’t always easy, they are only human and for this family they have struggled alongside Fluffy for the last 30 years. Day in and day out they have worked with Fluffy, going from camp to camp and been in high demand to use her as a photo prop for weddings and big ceremonies.

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She was given the nickname Fluffy by our Team while we were securing her retirement. From the moment we saw her, we felt she looked like a wooly mammoth and the name Fluffy sort of just stuck due to her unique ‘fluffy like’ features! Her real name is Boon Ruern -which means safe shelter, but for quite some time her owners have been calling her Paa Oowan which is an endearing term meaning –  Our dear Aunty who is big/chubby.

Emily (BEES Co-Founder) looking back at Fluffy giving rides

Emily (BEES Co-Founder) looking back at Fluffy giving rides

The BEES Team swung into action, on the 1st October when we announced publicly Fluffy’s need to retire and the incredible sponsorship from IWP to make it all happen. We launched a campaign on Facebook to raise the extra funds needed for Fluffy’s transport expenses to BEES and began the process of getting through all the hoops to get Fluffy to retirement.

On the 2nd of October a small team from BEES went to see Fluffy to take blood and do a health check to make sure she was well enough to travel the long journey. Although Fluffy has a visibly stiff gait that indicates arthritis and she has been suffering terrible digestion, her blood work came back looking good and she was declared in good health to travel the long journey to retirement.

On the 11th October we were like anxious children on Christmas Eve and just after 3pm we received the call we had been waiting for from the bank…… the sponsorship funds from IWP had been cleared!!!!!

Woohoo!

It was time for the adventure to begin! IT WAS TIME TO BRING FLUFFY TO RETIREMENT!!!!!

Doing Paperwork at the livestock department

Burm (Co-Founder) Doing Paperwork with Khun Ed (the owner) at the livestock department

We rounded up our support team and set off just after 6pm on the big overnight journey south.  On Thursday the 12th October at about 10am we finally arrived at the Livestock department near Fluffy’s camp. Feeling absolutely exhausted we did not let that deter us. We had to finalize paperwork for her ownership to be transferred over to BEES Elephant Foundation and get her transport clearances as Friday 13th was a public holiday. We could not waste any time.  During the transfer of ownership both Khun Ed and his wife got very emotional and we could see them getting teary.  It was a very sad thing for them to have to say goodbye to their ‘Aunty’ but a very happy ending after 3 decades of life they have shared with this magnificent animal. After a very long 5 hours and a mere 30 minutes before close of business on the eve of a public holiday, all paperwork was finalized. We left the livestock department and headed straight to see Fluffy.

Fluffy's documents officially signed over to BEF

Fluffy’s documents officially signed over to BEF

 At 4pm, we witnessed Fluffy give her last ride. She walked past us, harnessed with the basket and two tourists on her back, visibly struggling. We watched as the trekking basket came off for the last time and overwhelming emotions took over the team.   Her new mahout Aum stood staring at her in amazement at her beauty with a tear in his eye. He too has never seen such a ‘fluffy’ elephant.

Fluffy giving her last right

Fluffy giving her last ride

Mahout Aum meeting Fluffy for the first time.

Mahout Aum meeting Fluffy for the first time.

Fluffy was now a retired elephant and would never work again!

 

The trekking basket coming off

The trekking basket coming off

On the way to see Fluffy we received a call from Wimon, the elephant transport truck driver and he advised that he was a bit delayed. He was making a very big journey to transport Fluffy also. It was decided that as we were all exhausted it would be best to get a good night’s rest and start the journey in the morning. We said goodnight to Fluffy for the evening and told her we would be back in the morning to take her to her retirement home. We stayed in a guesthouse nearby, we were all very weary and the sleep was very welcomed. We woke for an early start and headed off to see Fluffy. We received word that big storms where coming, that also came with a flood warning and we could see dark clouds rolling in. We wanted to get out of the camp as fast as possible because the dirt roads may have become difficult to move through. When we arrived at the camp we found Fluffy’s owners preparing her for the big journey. They were speaking to her gently and had set up a small blessing ceremony at the tree by her shelter to keep her safe on her new adventure. Shortly after the transport truck arrived and we begin setting up at the loading station, putting up the signage and attaching protective padding onto the support beams to limit rubbing on Fluffy’s delicate old skin.

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Khun Ed bathing Fluffy for the last time

 

Fluffy’s owners gave her one last bath and then it was time to move her on to the truck. The owners began gently coaxing Fluffy towards the truck with bananas, speaking to her gently and patting her. The day before the family had asked if the father, an elderly man, nearly 70 called Daa Nook, could travel with us on the long journey to make sure she reached her new home safely. Of course we agreed as we felt a familiar face would be much better for Fluffy during this very stressful and confusing time for her. He was also helping call her on to the truck and we believe she found great comfort in this as Fluffy walked onto the truck with great ease. We were very impressed by the gentle coaxing of the family and although Fluffy was very nervous she did not try to run away. She was a very brave girl, maybe she knew what was to come?!

Gentle coaxing Fluffy onto the transport truck with bananas

Gentle coaxing Fluffy onto the transport truck with bananas

Khun Ed patted Fluffy’s rump, stepped out and kneeled behind the truck with his arm resting on the gate that was being locked to secure Fluffy in. His wife stood just behind him watching on. We could feel the emotions radiating from them. Wimon, the truck driver called out that he was ready to go and Khun Ed and his wife stepped back as the father climbed in the truck to go with Fluffy. We told them that we would take care of her and that we would make sure she was safe. We said to them that if they ever have some time that they are most welcome to come to visit Fluffy in her new home. We had quite a beautiful moment sharing a group hug and we all shed some tears. We said our good byes and they watched as Fluffy was driven away and we could see more tears in their eyes.

Khun Ed kneeling behind the truck and his wife standing just behind him, taking a moment to shed a tear

Khun Ed kneeling behind the truck and his wife standing just behind him, taking a moment to shed a tear

The support team went to follow Fluffy closely behind and the long journey had begun. We left the camp grounds at 10 a.m on Friday the 13th October, just in time too. Only half an hour after we left it started to rain on and off for the rest of the journey but we were always ahead of the predicted heavy storms and floods.

The blessing the family had placed to ask the spirits to keep Fluffy safe

The blessing the family had placed to ask the spirits to keep Fluffy safe

 

Sharing a moment with Khun Ed and his wife before heading off on the long Journey home

Sharing a moment with Khun Ed and his wife before heading off on the long Journey home

 

On the road to retirement

On the road to retirement

The journey was long but Fluffy did so well despite being very aware of her surroundings, with her eyes wide and ears forward listening to all the noises and taking it all in. There were many stops along the way at veterinary inspection offices as we went through each province. We also stopped to give Fluffy water and treats. At one stage we had to stop to refuel late in the night. The look on people’s faces when they saw an elephant in a petrol station was quite a sight to see! The staff were all taking photos like she was a celebrity!

A stop at the Veterinary Inspectors along the way

A stop at the Veterinary Inspectors along the way

Re-fueling at the petrol station

Re-fueling at the petrol station

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We had arrived in the village and had to walk Fluffy off the truck at the local temple, 200metres up the road due to heavy rains making it muddy and too difficult to enter the sanctuary. She did so well.

We arrived in our village just after 5 a.m. Due to heavy rains having muddied up the grounds, we were not able to get the transport truck down to the sanctuary. So, we found a good safe place about 200 meters down the road at the local temple. It was quite incredible watching Fluffy cautiously walking off the truck and so delicately watching where she placed her feet. In the dark fluffy slowly made her way down the path towards her night shelter with her new mahout Aum’s gentle voice guiding her. Visibly exhausted, she had a drink of water straight from the hose and some watermelons that we had chopped the skin off. We sat back and we watched her exploring the night enclosure. Every few moments she would stand motionless resting her tired body but as the sun began to rise she started to give herself a dust bath. Daa Nook, the elderly father, expressed that he was very happy to see Fluffy’s new home.

Fluffy resting in her new night enclosure

Fluffy resting in her new night enclosure

We left Fluffy to settle in under the watchful eye of her new mahout Aum, while the rest of us went to freshen up after the 18 hour journey. Later we returned with Daa Nook and some offerings for the spirits at her night shelter, so he could bless Fluffy’s new space. He said a chant and made offerings to the spirits to introduce them to Fluffy and ask them to accept her. When he finished he said he had a very good feeling about this place and that he felt she will be very happy with us. Daa Nook returned home the following day.

A special offering to the spirits in Fluffy's enclosure made by Daa Nook to protect her after he had gone.

A special offering to the spirits in Fluffy’s enclosure made by Daa Nook to protect her after he had gone.

 

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The lovely Fluffy smelling around her new night enclosure

We have been watching Fluffy closely and helping her ease into her new home. Fluffy suffers from terrible digestion and her dung quality is poor. Already we are making changes to her diet to help increase absorption and help her digest easier. It appears Fluffy may never have been allowed to roam freely and forage on her own. In the camps Fluffy’s owners were only able to feed her grass and bananas. When she stepped out of her enclosure to explore for the first time she seemed confused. She could smell the grass but hesitated to grab it and break it off to eat. It appeared as though she was expecting to get in trouble for trying it. After sniffing about for a good twenty minutes Fluffy took her first bunch of grass in her trunk and began eating it. She is still very unsure and seems confused when left to forage. On day 2 she took a stroll out in the forest and as she reached a noisy part of the stream she flared her ears and opened her eyes wide. She began to step backwards as it seemed she was afraid. Shortly after this the wind picked up and caused the tree’s to rustle loudly and she had the same response. We speak to Fluffy softly when she appears to be afraid of a noise and she responds very well, immediately calming down and refocusing on what she was doing.  Slowly she is learning that it’s okay to forage, dust & mud bath and just be an elephant. When we first met her she would only drink water from a hose but over the last week she has slowly been stepping out of her comfort zone and has been drinking small amounts of stream water.

Fluffy suffers poor digestion

Fluffy suffers poor digestion

It also seems that by working in the camps Fluffy has been deprived of the opportunity to exfoliate, dust & mud bath and scratch against trees endlessly to satisfy her skins needs. It’s now one of her favorite things to do most of the day! It will be interesting to see if her ‘fluff’ stays as ‘fluffy’ now she has the ability to do all these things.

Taking a stroll down the stream and enjoying making mud

Taking a stroll down the stream and enjoying making mud

Over the last week we have been getting to know the real Fluffy! She still doesn’t know who she is herself, yet!

We are excited to watch how Fluffy progresses and see if she become friends with Mae Kam or Thong Dee. She is very shy at the moment and turns away from both the girls when they approach.

Slow and steady Fluffy! You have all the time you need to find yourself sweet girl!

The ability to bring Fluffy home has given us the strength to keep striving forward, working to make a positive difference and most importantly to give Fluffy a new beginning.

A HUGE THANK YOU to International Wildlife Protection and their supporters for sponsoring Fluffy’s Retirement.

Also a special Thank You to all those who donated towards our fundraising campaign for the transport expenses for Fluffy’s big move.

If you would like to DONATE to bring more elephants to retirement or support the current elephants at BEES, please consider making a donation here.

Together we have changed Fluffy’s Life! Thank You!

Fluffy enjoying having a scratch

Fluffy enjoying having a scratch

Warm Regards,

The BEES Team xx

A Note From Emily

Written by Em. Posted in bees blog

‘If love could have saved her, she would have lived forever’

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On Wednesday 30th August 2017 Mae Mor laid down to sleep in her night enclosure in the early hours of the morning and slipped into an eternal rest. Tomorrow it will be 1 week since her passing, it’s taken me time to find the words to write this piece because the tears just keep flowing.

Back in March we introduced you to Mae Mor for the first time, we wanted to bring Mae Mor home to BEES so she could get the love, care and freedom she deserved. We met Mae Mor 4.5 years ago working as a trekking elephant in a camp in the north of Chiang Mai. She was underweight and suffering from poor digestion. At the time the camp owner was not very welcoming and we were not able to get information on her owners. We left, but never stopped thinking about her.

We were finally able to track down the owners earlier this year who told us that they were teachers and simply did not have time to look after an elephant, which is why she was staying in the camp. They said they would be honoured if we could take her to retirement, where she would no longer work and could receive the love and care she needed. Mae Mor had become too weak to work and was left chained in a field in the scorching hot sun. Mae Mor, who was aged at roughly 70 years old, was severely underweight, her teeth very worn, was malnourished, covered in abscesses & weeping wounds and suffering from a number of health problems as a result.  She had been placed with an inexperienced young Burmese Mahout that was scared of her and felt he needed to use weapons to protect himself.

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Mae Mor was forced to wear a spiked bracelet in the camp.

 

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Mae Mor at the camp before her rescue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were absolutely horrified by her condition and we knew we had to try to save her. There were a couple of people that made the passing comment that we were wasting our time and energy, even making the suggestion we should help younger healthier elephants that would live longer. This upset us greatly. Why? Because we are an organization that believes all lives matter and that all lives are equally as deserving. We knew we had to help her, we couldn’t leave her to perish in the scorching hot field, covered in wounds, not getting fed an appropriate diet and left to spend her nights in pain, alone. She was not going to be forgotten.

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Mae Mor had wounds and abscesses everywhere

 

 

Mae Mor’s Dung

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The BEES team immediately swung in to action and started Operation- Bring Mae Mor Home.

March 27th 2017 was the day our poorly Mae Mor was rescued and moved to BEES.

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Mae Mor getting a health check by TECC vets at the District Livestock office in Chiang Mai

 

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Mae Mor on the road to freedom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mae Mor arrived at BEES in the late evening but by the morning of March 28th, for the first time, this sweet, frail, old elephant was able to be chain-free and had the ability to make her own choices and just be an elephant. She was so highly strung and it proved difficult to treat her in the beginning because she was confused, weak and in pain. She had no idea who we were and what her new life was all about. Her enclosure became her safety net and despite leaving the gate open for many days she stayed inside the enclosure,  too afraid to explore. After about 3 weeks she started to build the confidence to investigate past her enclosure and soon after was going out on forest walks and exploring the grass fields. She enjoyed spending her days dusting and mud bathing and doing all things elephants should do. She would return to her night enclosure in the afternoon to specially prepared food treats designed to help with her digestion and absorption. While she enjoyed eating these treats she learned to trust her caring mahout and began to accept treatments without too much fuss. Her wounds and abscesses were able to be cleaned daily and she started to heal.

Thong Dee, another elderly elephant retired at the sanctuary, tried to make friends with Mae Mor, but, in the beginning she did not allow her to get too close. She would move away very quickly. Over time Mae Mor allowed Thong Dee to stand closer and they would often be seen in the fields only meters apart.

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Thong Dee trying very hard to make friends with Mae Mor.

 

On August 9th, 2017 she had spent the day out exploring along the stream and forest edge with her mahout following her to keep her safe. When she returned she was seen sneaking a piece of sugarcane by the volunteers. About 15 minutes later she began to show signs of discomfort and started regurgitating. She was taking water in her trunk and spraying the inside of her mouth constantly, then spitting it back out. She went off her food and she continued to regurgitate anything she put in her mouth and it became very clear that she was in a lot of trouble. The veterinarians from the TECC (Thai Elephant Conservation Centre Hospital) were called and drove out to attend to her. Based on her symptoms it was diagnosed that an esophageal obstruction was causing her great discomfort. Under the guidance of TECC veterinarians, our Vet Nurse Diana and our team started treating her with antacids, anti-inflammatories, pain relief,  IV and rectal fluids, support therapy, laser therapy, electrolytes and vitamins to help keep her body’s needs in order. We spoke to a number of experts, both locally and internationally. The prognosis was not good. Due to her age and already compromised condition she had become anaemic and blood work showed she had kidney disease. We worked around the clock to ensure that Mae Mor was getting the best care possible and to hopefully get her past this. The Thai veterinarians believed she was too old and the risks too high for sedation to explore further, but suggested we use pressured water flushes in her mouth and continue IV and rectal fluid therapy so she would stay strong in the hope her body would be able to resolve the problem itself and push the obstruction through. We were repeating her blood work every few days to make sure that we were keeping on top of her condition.

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IV Fluid Therapy

 

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Mae Mor enjoying a walk between treatments and Support Therapy


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After 12 days of no improvement and countless discussions with all our veterinary contacts, we felt that we needed to make changes to the treatment plan so that she could have more quality time and we could reduce her stress levels. We started our days earlier and finished later, doing fluid therapy and medications in the early hours of the morning then freeing her to walk and explore, then we would bring her back in the late afternoons for further fluid therapy, more medications and treatments. Incredibly her blood work started to improve, her kidney enzymes were showing improvements and she started to try to eat again. Her will to live blew the minds of many veterinarians and our staff, she was so full of fight, a fight we have never seen before.

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Mae Mor having a dust bath in her enclosure

On August 29th 2017, 20 days after she started showing distress, she had her morning fluid therapy and treatments and then spent the day out wandering the sanctuary, the same as the previous few days. That afternoon something beautiful happened. She took a stroll up the mountain that overlooks BEES with her mahout Aum following her in awe of her strength and will. She stood, resting her trunk for nearly an hour by the grave of Boon Yuen, an elderly elephant that had died there over two years ago.

She returned to her night enclosure for further fluid therapy, medications and treatments

Mae Mor laid down to rest in the early hours of the morning on August 30th 2017. She closed her eyes as she lay in the soft sand bed of her night enclosure, she drifted off into a heavy sleep that would last for eternity.

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BEES Co-Founder Emily grieving the loss of Mae Mor, Rescued dog Shadow sits quietly behind watching on.

We were able to confirm Mae Mor was suffering from an esophageal obstruction amongst a number of other health complications. Her increasing anaemia and other corresponding blood work sadly could not rule out cancer.

Mae Mor was a remarkable elephant, she had endured so much pain in her long life, her worn, frail body had been through far too many hardships. We had no idea 4.5 years ago that we would be able to bring her home to BEES. Although very compromised, we had watched her go from a highly strung elephant to an elephant that was gaining a lot of trust with her new human caretakers. In a short amount of time she had built a lot of confidence and enjoyed strolling through the forest with her head held high, having the ability to just be an elephant. As sad as we are to have lost Mae Mor, she stands by what we believe in, that every life deserves a chance and no one should be left behind, Mae Mor will always be in our hearts, never to be forgotten.

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Mae Mor at eternal rest in her night enclosure, the tractor had arrived to move her to the burial site.

Mae Mor was laid to rest with a Buddhist Burial ceremony. During the preparations and while we were waiting for the Abbott monk to arrive a beautiful dainty yellow butterfly flew around her body, maybe it was Boon Yuen’s embrace.

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The Abbott Monk blessing Mae Mor’s spirit

 

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BEES Co-Founder Burm praying for Mae Mor’s spirit to be free

 

Her soul was blessed and she was buried on the mountain where she had stood with her mahout the afternoon before. Her mahout felt that she gave him a sign, that she had chosen the spot she wanted to be – up on the hill beside Boon Yuen. There are now two beautiful wise old souls at rest on the mountain that overlooks BEES.

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BEES Co-Founder Emily says Goodbye to Mae Mor.

 

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Mae Mor is buried on the mountain next to Boon Yuen, we now have two wise old elephants watching over BEES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We would like to say a very big Thank you to Dr. Erica of WAWI Outreach (https://www.facebook.com/WAWIoutreach/) for making two seperate trips to visit us with donations of supplies for Mae Mor and offering her support and advice.

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Thank you Dr Erica of WAWI Outreach for bringing two loads of wonderful donations.

We would also like to thank the Thai Elephant Conservation Center Veterinarians for their donations and their guidance and for always sending their mobile clinic veterinarians out when needed and coming with donations and supplies. We are grateful for their constant medical support and guidance for the elephants at BEES and for the service they provide for Asian Elephants across the country.

Lastly, but just as importantly, we would like to Thank all of our supporters who donated towards Mae Mor’s rescue and on going medical care. With your help we were able to give Mae Mor the chance to be an elephant again.

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 If you would like to support our work, please consider making a donation so we can continue to provide sanctuary to these magnificent animals.

 

Donate here on Simply Giving:

https://www.simplygiving.com/NonProfit/BEESElephantFoundation

Together we can make a difference!

 

Warm Regards,

Emily and The BEES Team xx

All photo’s © BEES Elephant Sanctuary

 

Operation- Bring Mae Mor Home

Written by Em. Posted in bees blog

On March 13th we launched Operation – Bring Mae Mor Home and on the 27th March we did just that!!!

Mae Mor working in the camp

Mae Mor working in the camp in Mae Taeng

Burm and I found Mae Mor 4 years ago living in appalling conditions. We set out on a mission to bring her home to BEES.

It took all this time to track down the owner as the camp managers were not forthcoming with the information. We finally found the owner earlier this year, we went to check on Mae Mor and she had deteriorated to the point where the camp could not work her, so they just chained her in the hot sun all day. Most recently, she had been paired with an inexperienced, teenaged Burmese mahout that has no background working with elephants and was clearly scared of her, as a result he used weapons to protect himself. This is all too common in camps throughout Asia, in time with our efforts we hope that we can also improve the training and general welfare of the mahouts.

Mae Mor preparing to leave the camp

Mae Mor preparing to leave the camp

We are simply horrified by the wounds covering her body, inflicted by what we can only presume are nails, although the mahout was also seen carrying an axe. We approached Mae Mor’s owners to discuss what their intentions would be with the money if we were to negotiate a price for Mae Mor’s permanent retirement at BEES. The owners told us that they are teachers and simply do not have time to look after an elephant, they would like the funds to better their own livelihoods. They felt sad for her and said that they would be honoured if we could take her to retirement, where she would no longer work and could receive the care she needs. The BEES team immediately swung in to action and started Operation – Bring Mae Mor Home, we paid a deposit to the owner and we started fundraising and making plans for her big move.

Unfortunately, funds only trickled in and we felt that time was running out, Mae Mor was deteriorating and she needed us now. She had lost the sparkle in her eyes, her painful body was covered in wounds and large abscesses. We couldn’t wait any longer, so we had to use project funds that are for the general daily upkeep for the sanctuary to Bring Mae Mor Home to BEES. We hope that with your help we can replenish these funds so we can continue to provide Mae Mor with medical treatments and look after the elephants and animals at BEES. Please consider making a donation via Simply Giving – Click Here.

 

Mae Mor's Owner Khun Nipon hands us Mae Mor's Paperwork after final payment was made.

Mae Mor’s Owner Khun Nipon hands us Mae Mor’s Paperwork after final payment was made.

 On Monday 27th March we set out early to make the remainder of the payment to the owners and finalize paperwork which included transfer of ownership documentation and livestock transport clearances. When we arrived at the camp we found that Mae Mor had been moved into the shade of a small forested area, her owners concerned for her welfare had told the camp to move her immediately to shade right after we had expressed our concerns to them. They had not been able to visit Mae Mor for quite some time and had no idea of the state she was in. Mae Mor was walked down to the river where her young Burmese mahout gave her a bath, pulling her ankle bracelet that had spikes digging into her leg to make her come.

Mae Mor having a bath before her big move, she had a spiked ankle bracelet on that was used to guide her

Mae Mor having a bath before her big move to BEES, she had a spiked ankle bracelet on that was used to guide her

The spiked bracelet used to guide her in the camp

The spiked bracelet used to guide her in the camp

 

We fed her yummy treats, the owners gave her a farewell blessing and banana’s they had brought from their village to say their Goodbyes, they had smiles on their face to see her going to retirement, but also tears in their eyes. Mae Mor was loaded on to the truck around 4pm and set off for the district livestock office where the vets from Thai Elephant Conservation Centre hospital met us and together with the Livestock department gave a health check and cleared her for the journey. Mae Mor’s age is uncertain but she is believed to be in her late 60′s, possibly early 70s.

It was a long journey home. Elephants cannot be transported through the national park, our normal route, because the roads are too narrow and windy. We were forced to travel around the Doi Inthanon mountain which takes 2.5 hours longer. She arrived to BEES in the late evening where she walked happily off the truck and down the driveway to her new “home”.

Mae Mor heading home to BEES

Mae Mor heading home to BEES

Mae Mor spent the first day in the grass fields recovering from the big journey, no more spiked ankle bracelet and off the chain, she was very anxious, she enjoyed being in the fields alone, in the afternoon we used yummy treats like watermelon, banana, chopped up pumpkin and vitamin packed horse pellets to get her to the medical shelter and night enclosure. Mae Mor is still very anxious and we are slowly working to treat her and get her used to her new surroundings. She is in a lot of pain with her abscesses and on the truck ride home she could barely put her tail down, it seemed as though she couldn’t bare it rubbing on any of the support beams, she didn’t want it to touch anything. We had noticed a small wound there earlier but when we stopped to check her over, we soon realized it was another large abscess across the tail bone where it meets the base of the spine, it had erupted. Seeing Mae Mor in so much pain is heartbreaking, she is reluctant to explore and she seems quite frightened of people, with good reason as it seems humans have so badly damaged her, we have a lot of work to do to regain her trust.

Her tail abscess drainage point

Her tail abscess, you can see the wound/ drainage point

 Thong Dee has so graciously allowed Mae Mor to stay in her night enclosure, which is next to the medical shelter, while Mae Mor receives treatment and gets used to her new life here.

 Mae Mor was bought by the family about 25 years ago and worked as a logging and farming elephant up until about 10 years ago when she was moved to work in tourism, she has stayed in Mae Taeng area, notorious for its many elephant camps since. Her owners Khun Nipon and his wife, and brother are happy to see her retired.

 

Herbal medicine to help relieve pain, swelling and draw out the puss on Mae Mor's abscess covered body

Herbal medicine to help relieve pain, swelling and draw out the puss on Mae Mor’s abscess covered body

Mae Mor's Abcsess in her face

Mae Mor’s Abcsess in her face which is one of many on her body, receiving treatment with herbal compress and iodine flushes

We will take it at her pace and hope that she will come out of her shell and learn to trust us.  She has not yet shown interest in the other elephants and they haven’t yet shown interest in her.

Mae Mor enjoys her shredded food

Mae Mor enjoys her shredded food. Mae Mor has poor digestion so we are making changes to her diet so she can pass her food easier.

Thank you all for your kind donations and support that helped us bring Mae Mor here, we still have a way to go to replenish the funds that we borrowed from the project to bring her home.

Please consider making a donation via Simply Giving:

https://simplygiving.com/Appeal/Operation_Bring_Mae_Mor_Home

OR Via Bank Transfer to the BEES Elephant Foundation Bank (Please PM us so we can be sure to issue a receipt once things have settled down for Mae Mor)

Donate via Bank Transfer:

KASIKORN BANK
ACCT NAME: BEES ELEPHANT FOUNDATION
ACCT #: 006 3 31743 8
SWIFT CODE: KASITHBK
LOCATION: 45 Moo 4 Charoenniran , Amphur Maechaem, Tambon Chang Keung, Chiang Mai, Thailand 50270

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Together we can really achieve amazing things, Thank you for helping us Bring Mae Mor home!

Warm Trumpets and Grumbles of Thanks,

Emily, Burm and all of the BEES Team x

 

 

 

 

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