Since GVI’s elephant forest reintroduction started in the village of Huay Pakoot 2 years ago, volunteers, staff and elephant lovers everywhere have been working hard to raise money through charitable donations to bring more elephants back to the forest. GVI sponsors 5 elephants directly through volunteer fees but with a village of approximately 60 elephants in total, 5 elephants is only a small chunk of the elephants still remaining in tourist camps around Chiang Mai and northern Thailand. The community is committed to bringing more elephants back to the forest but funding is required to provide work and salaries for elephant owners and mahouts. Through online fundraising, volunteer donations and the 2011 marathon in Chiang Mai the GVI team has raised thousands of dollars towards this mission. And we are proud to say that the number of rescued elephants is finally increasing!
In May 2012, the community of Huay Pakoot officially registered as a community conservation group with the Mae Chaem district office. Through this registration they have committed to working towards bringing elephants back to the forest and utilizing community based tourist projects based around the reintroduced elephants to further increase funding. Tourist activities include home stays with traditional Karen families, learning about culture and food and hiking in surrounding forests to see these elephants foraging, wandering and just basically being elephants in a natural setting.
In August 2012, GVI signed a MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the Huay Pakoot Community Conservation group, a document which symbolizes their partnership moving forward to develop sustainable tourism and bringing in more rescued elephants.
Beginning 15 September 2012, GVI has committed to an initial 6 months of funding towards the community conservation group, a total of US$2,000. This funding should cover the costs of keeping Sa Cha and her son Mario in the forest of Huay Pakoot as well as provide extra funds to be used for any necessary medical treatment or other costs the conservation group need to move things forward. We currently have funds to sponsor these elephants for the first couple of years but still need more to bring in more elephants!
Sa Cha is 36 years old. She started working in the fields at the age of 15 years old. More recently she has been working in tourist camps in and around Chiang Mai. Sa Cha became pregnant with Mario in an elephant camp where he was born. Mario is 2 years 8 months and the mother and son are back in Huay Pakoot enjoying daily foraging in the forests and enjoying some time just being elephants without having to work!