Hello BEES Friends,
We have been promising a blog update for a while now and apologize for the delay and lack of updates. Most of you would be aware that I (Emily) fell ill last month and I am still in recovery. It really knocked me about, as well as throwing the project, the staff and of course our incredible multitasking Burm out of normal routine.
Burm has been completely amazing and organized a huge sterilization day for the rescued cats at BEES while I was sick, transporting a truck load of cats to be sterilized and he even followed up with their medicine and monitoring them after to ensure they didn’t get infections or tear their stitches in the days to follow. He also did an amazing job keeping the project running smoothly and managing guests all at the same time, he never stops trying and works so incredibly hard to make sure all the animals and the humans are okay as well as always being a huge support to me. He is our rock and we all love him!
I spent over a week away from the sanctuary when I was ill. I tried hard to keep in contact and answer emails but the virus overtook me and I just didn’t have the energy. I’m still in the recovery process over a month later and apologize for the delay if you have been waiting to hear from us and if we haven’t been responding as quickly as normal. Please don’t hesitate to send reminders; we will catch up as soon as we can.
So much has been happening on the Sanctuary and we have so much we wish to share with you and update you all on.
September was a busy time with the cat sterilization day, pulling down the old hut to rebuild the new mahout house and travels to find new mahouts to join our team.
The cat sterilization day for BEES rescued cats on the 1st September was a great success. Big Thanks to Pam Bayer the medical Coordinator at Care for Dogs and Dr. New, for always being so supportive and doing such amazing work. The cats have all fully recovered and are all doing very well after they finished their medicine and recovery period, back to their normal cheeky selves playing around the gardens at BEES.
Building a new hut and new members to the BEES Team:
During September we knocked down the old hut that was outside the kitchen and rebuilt it down by Aner’s (Head Elephant Caretaker at BEES) family house so we could provide a home for a new mahout.
The mahouts that had been looking after Mae Kam and Mae Jumpee while Aner took care of Kham Mee and Boon both decided at the beginning of September that they wanted to return home as harvest season starts in a few weeks’ time. We didn’t have much time to act as one left mid-September after a family member had passed and the other said he would stay to the end of the month and care for Mae Kam and Mae Jumpee together until we could find new mahouts. The mahout stayed and watched Mae Kam and Mae Jumpee every day, taking them out on their normal forest routine of just grazing away, soaking up the sun and just doing what elephants do best, Both mahouts said they were sad to be leaving but their family’s needed them. We wish both Pong and Sornchai all the best and hope that they have a successful harvest this year and we thank them for their work and support for our ele girls.
It is important to understand that the whole situation regarding mahouts and elephants in Thailand is very complex.
Mahouts aren’t exactly in abundance, often it’s difficult to find an experienced care taker that is trained in caring for elephants without using abusive methods, so we need to take time to teach them and learn from them and build strong relationships with these people to show them love, care and respect in order to get that in return for the elephants. Often mahouts will have families, we offer for these families to come and stay with us, but sometimes they don’t wish to move, it can be difficult for mahouts to leave families behind and often return to their families.
Often mahouts are not well taken care of themselves and don’t have an education and don’t have many options for work. It’s important to understand that there are many mahouts found in Thailand that are of the Karen hill tribe or are Karen-Burmese that come from very poor and broken backgrounds. In a lot of places they get paid next to nothing and treated so badly working in the camps that often they take their frustrations out on the elephants, because if the elephant isn’t behaving and are losing the business money the mahouts themselves lose an income. Without an income they can’t survive and if they have families to feed it can be a very tough situation.
A mahout is a human being with a story, a story that has shaped the person that they are today. It is our job to listen, observe, understand and care about the mahouts in order to work with them to educate, inform and guide them to take on positive methods to work together to improve the welfare of the elephants and animals. We get nowhere by screaming abuse, it is only though working together and taking positive actions that we can take positive steps.
On the 25th September we drove the long journey to Khun Yuam district were Mae Kam’s owner lives after receiving a call from him that two people a man and a teenage boy were looking for a job. After weeks searching finally we had some good news. Arriving in Khun Yuam we were greeted by Mae Kam’s owner with a smile and his family all came to greet us and ask how Mae Kam was going. It’s always so lovely when we visit the owners of the elephants and their families to be greeted so warmly and it is such a privilege to be invited into their homes. The family of Mae Kam was so pleased we made the journey to see them and show them pictures of their beautiful cheeky girl Mae Kam that they took us to their farm were they plant sugarcane and cut a whole truck load of sugarcane to send home for the elephants.
Shortly after arriving at the family’s home arrived the boys who were looking for work. They both stood very shyly, seemingly nervous but also letting of a vibe of excitement for what their new adventure would bring.
Angae 26 years old and Retutu 16 are both Karen, they have come from very poor family backgrounds. Retutu’s family couldn’t support him to go to school and so he decided to go out and look for work. For the last 8 months he has worked helping people plant and harvest corn and rice in the area. Many promised a wage but only gave him a bed to sleep in and food and never paid him a wage. Angae also had trouble finding work, he was working for many years in trekking camps and even spent time working in an elephant refuge that didn’t use hooks, but even he faced the same situations many times where people had said they would pay him and then they didn’t. Earlier this year Poor Luang Panuu (Mae Kam’s Owner) asked around the village if anyone knew of some people to help him harvest his crops Angae and Retutu came to help him, Poor Luang Panuu paid them a small wage and Angae and Retutu became good friends. After they helped harvest the crops the two boys returned to Anages Village and stayed together. When we told Poor Luang Panuu that we needed help finding mahouts he happily asked around and found that Angae was an experienced mahout and was still looking for work, Angae said he would only take the position if his friend Retutu could come with him as Retutu didn’t want to return to his family, he wanted a job and to make a life for himself. Poor Luang Panuu has always seemed to only ever want good things for Mae Kam, he helped us find Aner and has has been of great help and support. He would never recommend someone if he didn’t think they would be alright and up for the job.
Angae and Retutu have both become very comfortable in the last few weeks here. They both went from very shy boys, to very excitable and friendly almost overnight. They both helped finish building the new mahout house and have since moved into their new home, we have also set up a second hand t.v and satellite in their so they can watch T.V of an evening. Angae is now caring for Kham Mee and Boon and Aner has returned to his girls Mae Kam and Mae Jumpee. Retutu is spending time learning along side Aner so that one day he may become a mahout. We hope that they will stay and join our team to continue to work towards improving elephant welfare in Thailand with us. At BEES we do not ride the elephants, we do not use hooks and we do everything we can to steer owners and mahouts away from negative methods. We work tirelessly to give the elephants the freedom, to just be elephants.
Angae is very kind and gentle towards the elephants and has already become a very good friend to Boon, playing with him and feeding both Boon and his mumma Kham Mee treats everyday and giving them lots of love and attention. Retutu is learning from Aner and seems to enjoy the walks out in the forest observing the elephants and seeing what elephants are really suppose to do, to just be elephants.
It’s important for everyone working towards creating a better future for the elephants to understand the realities and the complex issues that revolve around Elephant welfare in Thailand and in Asia as a whole. There is a population of over 4,000 elephants in captivity here in Thailand and thousands of mahouts and owners trained using the same methods for centuries, in order to change this we must work to educate mahouts and owners and show them the way, leading by example providing sustainable and alternative solutions with the aim of improving the lives of the elephants, the owners and their carers and in the long term the welfare of the elephants as a whole.
Global March for Elephants and Rhino’s – October 4th at BEES:
October 4th was a lovely day at BEES, we had our own little gathering joined with the GVI- Elephant Reintroduction to the forest program with their interns that came to BEES to share the remarkable day remembering the Elephants and Rhino’s we have lost to the ivory and horn trade. Joined with many thousands of you from around the world we stand united against the ivory and horn trade. United as one and calling on China and Africa and all governments in every country to strengthen their laws and SHUT DOWN THE FACTORIES. To once and for all bring an end to the trade. Until this nonsense stops we will not give up the fight. We are with you!
Back in February Aussie Film crew from Channel 9 joined us on the Sanctuary:
Most of you would know by now that an Aussie film crew from Channel 9 joined us on the sanctuary for some filming. They where not just at BEES for the elephants, they were actually here following a story regarding myself and Burm the founders of BEES.
The documentary series is called The Embassy: follow them here https://www.facebook.com/TheEmbassy9
The premiere is not to be missed this Sunday on Australia’s Channel 9 at 6.30pm Sydney, Australia time.
BEES feature on The Embassy Sunday Oct 26 6.30pm eastern daylight savings SYDNEY time.
The Elephant Medical Shelter is in progress:
As you all know earlier this year our darling old lady Mae Jumpee fell terribly weak with an intestinal impaction causing her great discomfort. She was unable to defecate or eat for 3 days and veterinarians made an emergency trip out to assess her situation. It was decided that due to the severity of the impaction that she would be rushed to the elephant hospital in a race against time to help her pass the blockage under the supervistion of experienced veterinarians in the fully equipped elephant hospital in Lampang. We did not yet have an area where the elephants could be taken to be assessed and safely secured in an area specifically designed for this kind of treatment. As our facility grows we expect we will have more cases needing medical care and it is so important for us to have an area designated for this onsite that can be kept sterile, have access to water and electricity and be safe for veterinarians and our staff to be able to provide medical care and attention when needed. Thank you to each and every person who has already made a contribution and has been sharing the link to help us reach our goal!
If you can spare a few $$ please donate through my cause:
Please join us on this beautiful journey to improve the lives of the elephants in our care and as many elephants as possible. Together we can make a difference!
Trumpets, grumbles and warm muddy elephant trunks of thanks for your support.
With lots of ele love and Thanks,
Burm, Emily and the Elephants and all of The BEES Team xx