A recent article in the Chiang Mai Citylife E-zine caught my attention. It reported:
A group of energetic retired expats got together a few years back to organise a slew of fun and interesting activities – Citylife Garden Fair, weekend getaways, raffles nights, dances and parties – to raise funds to support a handful of selected charities and causes. The latest cause for the 200 Club is to support the formation of a non-profit elephant clinic in the Mae Tang area to cater for minor diseases and injuries for the 500 or so elephants living in Mae Sa, Mae Tang and Chiang Dao districts, so that they do not have to travel by truck, at great inconvenience and stress, all the way to the Lampang Elephant Hospital. (Read the rest of the article here).
By “the Lampang Elephant Hospital”, the reporter means the Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE) Elephant Hospital, founded by Soraida Salwala in 1993 and featured in the elephant conservation documentary, The Eyes of Thailand. I asked Soraida what she thought of the article and here is her reply:
I have heard of this hospital for quite some time, just a quick glance at the article you sent.
I believe that every good cause for the welfare of the elephants should be encouraged. The only thing that might worry me is the point that healthy elephants and the sick ones should not be in the same compound. However, experts would know that.
Regarding the inconvenience of transporting the sick elephants to FAE, I must say that we have built it here as it is the best location for elephants we could find. We cannot be near anyone, anywhere and in 1993 there were just a few elephant camps in Chiangmai, a lot of elephants were in logging in this part of the country and in other regions. We have had many elephants from all over Thailand. Inconvenience it might have been but we have done the best we could to provide treatment for them. And not only the injuries or their other ailments but their minds. Being in a quiet place in a natural surroundings helps the sick elephants a lot to gain back their health.
We may have only two veterinarians but we have trained many vet students (local and from other countries), elephant keepers and to this date, many are working in those tourist camps or government sectors.
Experts in elephants are rare and FAE stafff are very dedicating and I wish there would be more places like FAE’s.
We may not have the best equipment but we are proud of what we have been doing.
I concur with Soraida. I think the world would be a nicer place if there were more places like FAE, treating ill or injured elephants, rehabilitating them after they’ve stepped on landmines, and working with the Prostheses Foundation to build prostheses to help them walk again.
What do you think? I look forward to reading your comments.
Director/Producer, The Eyes of Thailand