With his loyal and loving mother, Boon Jan
I hope that everyone had a fantastic new year and I wish it was with better news that I am writing the first report for our Thailand Elephant project in 2013. We have some new initiatives we wish to move forward with following a tragic accident on the project, for which your past and hopefully, future donations will be much needed. Whilst this is a long report, we wanted to give you as much details as possible, as without your support, we are unable to stop these incidents happening.
Our two and a half year old male calf, Song Kran, passed away on the 10 January. He got a hold of some very toxic pesticides on Sunday, 6 Jan which had been left out by locals in a field in our forest. On Monday’s hike it was a call for alarm when he defecated blue liquid. After asking some questions, Song Kran’s mahout showed the GVI team an empty bottle of paraquat dichloride. This pesticide had been banned in the United States for some time, but has more recently been allowed back in.
A vet arrived around 7 pm Monday evening. Song Kran was given fluid intravenously while we waited for a truck to transport him and his mother, Boon Jan, to the government run hospital in Lampang, an hour outside of Chiang Mai. The team arrived around 7 am Tuesday morning. However, the vet woke our Thai Elephants Project Manager, Nadia at 1 am Thursday morning to say goodbye to Song Kran. The pesticide shut down his kidneys, liver then nervous system, burned his mouth and oesophagus and entered his lungs. Below is an excerpt from Nadia:
It was heart wrenching to see him fight, he should be so proud of himself. Boon Jan is my hero, she was at his side every moment of these past few days, tenderly touching him with her trunk and legs, I never once saw her sleep. Any time they put food down on the other end of the enclosure she’d drag it over to be near him while she ate. Understandably she is not doing well, the whole week has been inexplicably traumatic for her and she’s been severely affected. The vets want to wait a few days before she endures the seven hour journey in the truck back to the village. She will hopefully return home to the forest and the rest of the herd on Sunday. I will keep everyone updated upon her return back to the village. Out of respect for everything she’s been through I believe she should have lots of recovery time without any visitors.
Funds donated to this project will go directly to the following:
- We need a clinic in the field along with First aid medications. This will include a truck loading area in case we need to transport any of our other elephants to receive medical care.
- Second, we need introduce a project dealing with education and alternatives to pesticides. We are in contact with an organization that has successfully worked with other hill-tribe villages in this area helping to promote the use of natural pesticides and sustainable agricultural practices. We are also hoping to collaborate with a distributor of natural pesticides. Realistically we need to provide our village with alternatives and methods rather than hoping that they will make the right decision amongst themselves.
- Lastly, but most importantly, our mahouts and elephant owners need adequate training on elephant medical care and first aid response from trained professionals. Keeping in mind that they are the elephant experts in a traditional sense, with modern introductions to their traditional ways like, for example, needing elephants to board trucks, they need expertise from other locals on a more thoughtful, effective, humane way of handling elephants. This will help us to ensure the safest, most effective and least harmful practices are carried out for all involved – keeping in mind the high intelligence and sensitivity of elephants.
With your help we can move forward with these plans to make sure a tragedy like this does not happen again. We appreciate that this is very upsetting news for many people, especially those who have volunteered with GVI in Thailand and personally knew Song Kran. We are all mourning him. Thank you for reading this long report and please do get in touch if you have any questions.