Where do elephants go to retire?  No, that is not the start of a bad joke, it’s a legitimate question for an endangered species who was captured from the wild, domesticated (usually through brutal methods) and spent its life begging on the street, logging, performing at tourist camps or carrying back-fulls of tourists at trekking camps.

Starting on 21 November 2009, Thailand will send its “retired” elephants to The Pang-La Nursery Home for Aged Elephant, according to the Bangkok Post article published 10 Oct 2009.

I asked Soraida Salwala, founder of Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE) and the World’s First Elephant Hospital, about her thoughts about a government-run Nursing Home for aging and “retired” elephants.  She wrote:

The Last Home Project (for the unwanted elephants) has been the project of Friends of the Asian Elephant since our inception in 1993. It has also been known widely among the authorities and officials of the Ministry, especially of the FIO, since their staff used to work closely with FAE in the first few years.

FAE could not carry out many projects as we have planned due to lack of funds and obstacles that never cease. However, our Last Home Project has been taken and the name (in Thai: BAAN LUNG SOUD TAIE) is used by the government sector, which I find it quite strange. Even though it is our initiative we are also happy that our many projects are being done by many government and private groups (in and outside Thailand). At the very least, the elephants will have a place to stay, being fed properly and with veterinary care. The only thing that troubles me is “will they be really taken care of properly?” and not being put for show and for other purposes.

How I wish that there are no more elephant politics in Thailand so the elephants management will be for the good of the elephants and those who truly care for them.

For the elephants,

Soraida Salwala

When asked if an Elephant Nursing Home is a good or a bad thing, Soraida wrote:

It is a good thing, it is from FAE’s projects, so how could it not be good! But I am concerned as to the hidden agendas. Government sectors are not supposed to receive donation money for their own gain, but they (FIO) do even though they receive over 100 million Baht Budget a year.

To read more about Thailand’s plan for an Elephant Nursing Home, please visit The Bangkok Post.

To learn more about The Eyes of Thailand documentary, which features Soraida Salwala and FAE, please visit the film’s webpage.

-Windy Borman

Producer, Writer and Director, The Eyes of Thailand