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International tourism across Thailand is non-existent; no flights are carrying tourists into the country at the moment, and the borders into Cambodia, Malaysia and Myanmar are to remain closed for the foreseeable future. This situation has had an impact on Samui Elephant Haven who generates income for the care of their elephants from visitors that take part in the various daily tours and the volunteer's program.
“Without them, we are unable to take care of our resident herd and the other 'foster' elephants”.
At the age of 7, some 30 years ago, Maew Suriya, the founder of Samui Elephant Haven’s parents moved from Surin Province to run a circus. Even from this young age, it was Maew’s dream to create a sanctuary for elephants – a real haven for them to live out their lives happily and roaming free. Samui Elephant Haven was opened in 2018, and since opening, they have achieved so much. To date, they have rescued 14 elephants from across Thailand and from the tourist-trekking industry.
We speak with this fantastic organization to find out more about how they are coping and the situation for elephants in their care and over Thailand.
We see you are looking after elephants temporarily because of the situation, owners cannot care for them, do you have many, and what will happen?
Our resident herd is 13-strong, and we have an additional eight elephants under our care. Due to our lack of funds, each of the elephants receives only essential nutrition from pineapple and coconut leaves; this enables us to keep the costs as low as possible. Ideally, their diet should be varied and include lots of grass, hay, and various fruits and vegetables.
The older elephants require additional nutrients and medication, this is mixed into easily digestible rice balls. Older elephants tend to lose their teeth, so their already flawed digestive system cannot keep up with the unchewed food. It's vital that we cut their food into smaller pieces and provide them with as many additional nutrients as possible to keep them healthy.
How has your funding been affected?
Over the last two months, we have only received a meager 5-per cent of our necessary funding; which in turn is affecting any reserves that we have, and the ability for us to rent our current land space further into the future. Land rental in Koh Samui is vastly expensive; we are in a much sought after area for prime real estate.
We are working with local companies that have 'spare' land for permaculture elephant gardens. We have various sponsors that will help us fund the planting of elephant food such as banana trees, pineapples, Napier grass, mossy passion flowers, acacia gratin, non-GMO corn and hemp. The gardens are a long-term project that will continue into the future.
We also have a shop on our website that includes various elephant 'foodie' goodies such as grass and pineapple tops, a clothing range, yoga, and meditation videos. We also have a jewelry range from Heather Anderson and a beautiful colouring book that contains a vast array of drawings from artists around the world; this is available in print and digital copies. We are also collating an online art gallery.
Rob's Dogs are one of our international charity partners. Their DGR charity status means that a tax reduction for Australian donors. We are currently seeking partners in the US and UK.
We are very involved in our local community and each month attend the Samui Mala Green Market, at which we sell our eco-friendly wares. Every quarter, we partner with Free Yoga Community Samui and offer 'Haven's Warriors', extraordinary donation-based children's yoga classes that encourage kids of all ages to stretch like a dog, stand tall and proud like a tree, and flutter like a butterfly. We are also planning a Christmas art exhibition with Art in Mind on Saturday 12 December that will boast a collection of beautiful auctionable art, textiles, a fashion show, and various pop-up vendors.
Yesterday, Samui Elephant Haven opened their beautiful Moonlight Café for island residents and local visitors. Fast internet speeds and an endless stream of excellent artisan coffee make this an ideal coworking space for those seeking inspiration. The delicious homemade mocktails and simple vegan Thai dishes are bursting with fresh ingredients from the Haven's organic garden. The café is open between 11.30 and 17.00 each day.
Are you concerned about the future or do you have a plan?
Currently, we cannot see an end to the pandemic, and we are spending our allocated reserve fund for land rental in 2021. Spending this money now will not allow us to continue renting the land; we may have to cancel the rental agreement for the 'foster' elephants, which will mean us having to displace them. They currently have beautiful parkland where they can roam in the jungle and bathe in the natural pools. They come to us to heal from their lives of trekking, performing, and begging.
Read the story of Dow here.
How is Dow doing?
Sadly Dow has had to return to her owner; we simply didn't have enough funds to keep her with us permanently, so she had to return to her owner.
We have recently acquired another elderly female elephant that is called Somo, which means watermelon. We are incredibly lucky that we have a sponsor who could provide enough funds so that we could purchase her from a life of trekking and cover her monthly costs for food, shelter, and veterinary care. She will now spend the rest of her life with her new family at Samui Elephant Haven. Already, she has integrated into the herd with grace and a sense of belonging.
Samui Elephant Haven has various options for the monthly or annual sponsorship of our elephants.
How is the situation in other places in Thailand with elephants?
All elephants across Thailand and further into Asia have been affected. The fate of Asian elephants has been a sad source of intrigue and published in many news stories across the world. Lek Chailert, the founder of Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, has been part of some incredible rescue missions and is, with her charity teams, starting projects with local communities to ensure their long-term survival. Save Elephant Foundation provides food to those owners that are most in need.
How can people help you?
There are many ways that people can help us. People are encouraged to visit us and meet our herd, follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and see regular updates on our website samuielephanthaven.org. They can visit and purchase items from our shop, make donations, buy food for the elephants, or even sponsor one of the herd. For other inquiries, people are welcome to contact us via email firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone, or WhatsApp on (+66) 095-628-6160.