Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Lek Stories – A Call for Contributions:

Several days ago I came up with an idea for a project.  Darrick thought it was a great idea so I mentioned it to Lek.  Best predictions for this project include your help, and that’s why I’m writing today.

Very Brief Overview: 

Assemble a collection of short stories about Sangduen “Lek” Chialert. I sincerely believe there are thousands of wonderful stories about Lek that should published.  I only know a few and Lek would never champion such a project; self-flattery is not her style. That’s where you come in:  Please submit your favorite story or stories!  They will be your gift to Lek. Not interested? Read no further.

Interested?  Great! I love caring people who simply want to do the right thing.

Lek  and elephants - perfect love
Brief Overview:

General: The idea is to create a set of very short stories about Lek. Sources would include, but perhaps not be limited to:

    a.  Short things that Lek has written available in the public domain. The story of the geese at ENP is a great example; in fact it was the inspiration for this project.

    b.  PR material that is available

    c.  News media pieces that are available

    d.  Submissions from her fan base, Ambassadors, social media contacts etc.

    e.  Other sources. Done reasonably well this project could take a life of it's own

Submission: Original stories should be submitted directly to me. Please keep the text to 1,000 words or less and please include high resolution photographs as appropriate. Also please feel free to send copies of anything you have seen that you would like to see published.
Remember the Bangkok Floods? 
  • Care would be taken to give photo credits and author credit for each piece that is incorporated in the project.
  • Collection and assembly of permissions documents would be critical.
  • The book will include an extensive credits section.
  • The finished product will be given to Save Elephant Foundation for publication.
No stranger to the media
Financial Understanding:
  • All proceeds from this project will go to Save Elephant Foundation.
  • I will accept no compensation for this project. 
  • Contributors will not receive any compensation.
  • Expenses of printing will be the responsibility of the SEF.
New friends and supporters
Time Table:
  • Accept contributions and gather information: February through August
  • Set Book Style: February
  • Finish Outline of Book Design: March
  • Book Design: March – September
  • Present Final Book Design: In time for Lek’s birthday.
Rationale: There is a lot of information available and there are many people who, I believe, would be interested. The book would be 'light' reading with photographs. As such it would not compete with existing and future biographies; it might even be used as source material at some future point in time.

Abundant Blessings,

Jerry Nelson

Friday, November 9, 2012

Want Elephant News?

Gentle Reader,

A few months ago I fell into the habit of posting news articles from other sources on my blog.  That turned out to be not a perfect decision; I’m taking those articles down and returning to my original concept of all words and photo’s being mine.
Pangporrnsawan at TECC 
I stuck Pangpornsawan's picture in here just because I feel we have a connection.  I'll be so grateful when she leaves hospital and goes to her new home.  Should be another two months or so.  

If you want an excellent one stop source for elephant related news I suggest you try Melissa Groo.  She does a sterling job of researching and disseminating elephant related news.  Below is the contact information:

Please see Save the Elephants.  

Melissa Groo is their Elephants News Service Researcher.  To subscribe to her news lists, just send an email to groo@elephantnews.org.  with the subject: "Request African,  Request Asian, or Request Both".    I have learned so much about the plights of the Asian Elephant from this news list I must recommend it. 

By the way, this project is supported by the International Elephant Foundation

Abundant Blessings,


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Recently I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Sri Lanka.  Being me, I decided that I would have to check out the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage.  I suspect that the trip advisor ratings say more about the tourist than the place they rate.  People who are animal activists and people who are learned about the plight of the Asian Elephant will not like what they find at Pinnawala.  People who are happy to see lot’s of elephants up close and just want to enjoy their vacation may enjoy Pinnawala.  Look at the trip advisor rankings as of November 1, 2012:  44 people found it excellent, 51 very good, 25 average, 13 poor and 38 rated it as terrible.  I will use material from this article for my own review. The terrible count will then be 39.   

I have taken the liberty to cut and paste from a prominent Srilankan tourist information website:

“The purpose of Pinnawala (Pinnawela) Elephant Orphanage

 The primary purpose of the orphanage has been to provide a lifeline to the orphaned baby elephants and adult elephants lost in the wilderness. In most of the occasions the mother of the orphaned baby elephants had been killed; and then there have been accidents of baby elephants falling into pits and losing out to the herd; and there were instances the mother elephant had fallen into a pit and died leaving the baby elephant lost in the jungle. There are instances of adult elephants being killed by farmers to protect their paddy fields and crops resulting in baby elephants orphaned”.
The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage was launched to provide the best possible opportunity to the sad victims of such situations. The orphanage is fully geared to provide an environment of happy and healthy life to the beasts”

Captive breeding at Pinnawala (Pinnawela) Elephant Orphanage

The elephants at the Pinnawala (Pinnawela) Elephant Orphanage aren’t subjected to any form of stress or threat at all and supported by a team of employees at the orphanage numbering over 100 including a group of mahouts.

The free movement of the herd within the 15-acre coconut grove of the orphanage affords the opportunities to both sexes of elephants to get together and mate. Maha Oya, the nearby river, where the elephants taken for bathing on daily basis played a dominant role in this regard. In 1984, the first baby elephant of 
 was born. Today some of these orphans enjoy the good fortune of seeing their third generation too born at the orphanage. ……….”[1]

To the uninformed tourist this all sounds great.  But is it?   I think not. I took the time to do a little research and spoke to a couple of people before and after I visited this place.  I find contradictions especially with the claim that the elephants are free of any form of stress or threat.  Two different people told me they had seen an “elephant crush” -- the small cage used for the breaking of baby elephants -- on the property.  I was given conflicting direction to it’s location and managed to get myself caught in an area “not safe”. The staff told me it wasn’t safe, but the tone of their voices conveyed something I wouldn’t describe as concern for my safety.  I couldn't hep but notice the spears they were holding at port arms.  What else were they hiding?  Bottom line is I didn't get any pictures of the crush, but have every reason to believe the people who told me of it's existence.  
One of the same sources told me a story about a pair very young baby elephants which were allegedly rescued from the jungle after their parent abandoned them. Humans abandon their young, elephants do not!   I would have loved to seen these babies, but as I said they were not available to me. 

For my own safety
So, what did I see?   First there is this old bull who apparently spends his days on a very short chain standing around so the tourists can touch him.  (A tip is expected).  This old boy is blind; no I didn’t even ask how that happened.  His body is scarred and appears to have various sores.  This elephant is neither happy nor healthy.   May the casual tourist wake up.  This is not something you want to see or show your children.  The sight of this elephant had a grave effect on me.  Why, I don't know.  What I do know is that in addition to my usual anger I felt a deep sadness perhaps a clinical depression.  Was I picking up his vibrations?  Perhaps.  I do know that I'm still effected when I see his images.    

Old Bull Elephant on Display. 
I am so sad for him
The breeding / rescue program seems to be working.  They do have a lot of elephants and many of them are young.  The website mentioned in the footnote talks about bottle feeding as a main tourist event.  To me that means they have a steady supply of infant elephants.   Gentle Reader, you decide if that’s a good thing or not.  I’ll keep my opinion toned down, other than to say I left there with a very heavy heart.

To the unschooled eye it looks pretty good
Many elephants seem to be seriously underweight.  Maybe they are sick, maybe not.  

After leaving the orphanage we passed several elephant camps.  I saw one elephant that was in such bad shape that I asked the driver to stop, walked back and took this photograph.  I cannot understand why anyone would treat another living creature like this and I cannot understand why people would pay good money to be close to such terrible abuse!  Pathetic! 

Just down the road from the orphanage
I’ll close with a positive note.  I’m told that there is work under way to establish another, hopefully better, elephant sanctuary in Sri Lanka.  The country does have a significant wild elephant population and apparently there are people in their government who are looking for better ways to care for their pachyderm population.  

I have taken all my photographs, including the ones of elephants, from Sri Lanka and posted them on http://s935.photobucket.com/albums/ad200/jnelson1944/Sri_Lanka_201210/   There will be a couple of other articles about Sri Lanka which I will post in www.jerrynelsonjournal.blogspot.com  Look for them soon.

Abundant Blessings,

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Day Tripper

Based on the length of their stay, one could argue that there are three categories of people who visit the Elephant Nature Park (ENP).  Third there are the people who volunteer to work at the park for a week or two.  Many of these fine people realize this is for them as a result of having visited the park for a shorter period of time.  Second there are the overnight guests. They enjoy more time at the park and can avail themselves to a morning walk to observe the elephants on the ground.  And first, there are the good people who go to ENP for a day trip.  I lovingly call them the “Day Trippers”.  Many of these people come back for an overnight visit and many return to volunteer for a week or more.  I myself was introduced to ENP by way of a day trip.  My life has never been the same from that day forward; much better, much fuller.

Two days ago I caught a ride to the ENP with the intention of hanging out and having lunch with a good friend.  However I was so inspired by the people who rode on the van that I just had to write this.  If you don’t know, a day trip to the ENP begins with being picked up at your hotel or guesthouse. I boarded at the ENP office and off we went to pick up the passengers. The driver made four stops and picked up people from five different countries:  Australia, Brazil, China, England and Israel.  This is the perfect group to accompany, photograph and write about.

The group meets their first elephant

Wow she has a big trunk! 
I managed to cull the photographs down to only 37 and then posted them at http://s935.photobucket.com/albums/ad200/jnelson1944/ENP_20120927/  A special message to the group, if you want to print any of these please send me an email and I will give you a print size file. Please do not print from these internet size files. If you want to pay me for the photograph, don’t.  Instead please make a contribution to Save Elephant Foundation. 

After picking up all the guests the van heads for the Elephant Nature Park, about an hour and a half journey. Our guide for the day was Bee.  I always enjoy her narratives and observations.  She’s truly a great guide.  By the way her real name is ผึ้ง (Pung) which is Thai for bee. On the way a video is played which introduces the guests to the plight of the Asian Elephant and to the Elephant Nature Park.

Bee at the Medical Clinic, she's holding
sample of elephant worms and dog worms.

Bee and me at the river.
Once at the park we receive a brief safety briefing and an explanation of the days schedule, then it was off to see a few of the elephants. 

Hope was just passing by.  He is the only elephant who has a mahout
who is allowed to ride him.   Gwan & Hope are marvelous together.

The group meets Darrick on the way to the medical center. 
About 11:30 we returned to the platform in time to help feed some of the elephants.  Many come to the platform and enjoy being fed a basket of fruit and veggies by the guests.  You might also want to know that not all of the elephants participate; some are still terrified of human contact (given their history, no one can blame them). 

Oh goodie, banannas in the basket. 

12:00 noon is human feeding time.  The lunch at the ENP is always a delicious vegetarian buffet. One day soon perhaps I’ll make a point of photographing some of the dishes. After lunch, around 1:00 pm the different groups are taken to the river and encouraged to help bathe some of the elephants.  Our group had a great time! 

Mong Dee and Sao Yai
Somewhere in mid-afternoon the guests are asked to watch another video about the plight of the Asian Elephant.  This one explains the torture the elephants go through as the start of their training to become tourist attractions. I’ve heard complaints that it’s too hard to see, but I believe ENP is correct in showing it. One part of ENP’s mission is to educate.  Everyone is free to step out of the screening room at any time, as did my Australian friend the first day we went to the park.

The remaining hour or so is spent as free time.  Depending on the day and the weather, one might get another opportunity to get close to the elephants.  This day there was a torrential rain. The elephants didn’t mind, but the people stayed under cover. 

Depending on the day everyone climbs back on the van between 4:30 and 5:00 and heads back to Chiang Mai.  Out of this group, at least one person has decided to return as a one week volunteer.  All in all it was a great day, one in which I made some new friends, caught up with an old one and was able to think through a few things that had been muddling around in my brain.

Abundant Blessings,

Jerry Nelson 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

It’s time to clear the air.

Gentle Reader,

Most of you know, but a few may not.  Let's get clear. Asian Elephant Stories is my independent effort.  The purpose of this blog has never changed from that which is stated on the header:  “A small effort to help these magnificent creatures regain their dignity”.  What I write here is not filtered or edited by anyone other than me.  I try to choose my words carefully, but not so carefully that the message is lost in political correctness.   I capitalize the entire phrase Asian Elephant to show respect; my late aunt Iza who was the Dean of English at Iowa State University would approve. Responsibility for errors, omissions and faux pas lay entirely with me. 

A baby at ElefantAsia,  Sayaboury Province,Laos

This blog started this in August of 2010 with an article about street begging elephants. The street beggers have been gone from Chiang Mai for some time.  However,I recently heard that they have again been spotted in Chiang Mai province.  Sadly, there may be more on this subject in the near future.

Working the Street in Surin
I have to opportunity to do volunteer work, write for other publications and enjoy fairly easy access to captive elephants in Northern Thailand.  I say “fairly” because accessibility seems to be based on the elephant owner’s attitude toward candid journalism.  Although she is incredibly busy and often has to shuffle her attention between various media groups, Sangduen “Lek” Chialert always makes the media welcome.  Naturally, much has been written about Save Elephant Foundation and Elephant Nature Park (ENP).  I’ve written so much that some people think this blog is an extension of ENP. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!   Yes I’m a fan. No I do not offer my blog as a marketing tool. This blog and Jerry Nelson’s Journal are independent expressions.
Faa Mai follows, Lek leads
During a recent rather dark time in this wonderful countries history, I used this blog to re-transmit several articles written by others.  I make no apologies, but at the same time can take no credit for any actual contributions.  It’s time to get back to writing and in the future perhaps post more articles from other sources such as the tribute to Anthony Lawrence.

My next article might be “The Elephant Ambassador Program”.  I'm doing some research to ensure accuracy so don't expect anything for the next several days. I'm also beginning to gather more information on elephant street begging, the reported sightings keep coming in.  I truly wish there was nothing to report, but that just isn't reality.  Today's activity over on Jerry Nelson's Journal. is the posting of an article on the Symposium on Local Wisdom and Improving Quality of Life.  Check it out.

Abundant Blessings,

Monday, July 30, 2012

Good News, Administrative Information & Sad News

Gentle Reader,

There is good news, administrative information and sad news regarding Save Elephant Foundation and her premier attraction, Elephant Nature Park.

Good News!  Save Elephant Foundation has a new  “Official” Facebook page.  Our social media leader just wrote me saying:   We have set up a new Facebook fan page and need to get some "likes" in order to get a vanity URL and begin to spread the word about all of the good we do, as well as raise awareness about animal welfare, conservation and more. If you have a moment, and don't mind, could you please head to this link and give the page a "like”?  Please take moment and go to Save-Elephant-Foundation  Please share this with your friends, and please pass this blog notice on as well. 

Administrative Information:   Our new  Public Relations and Social Media leader, Diana Edelman is on board and hard at work.  There are more exciting changes coming soon.  Please stay tuned.

Lek comforts for the baby! 

When the dogs barked she would cover his ears and gently sign to him
This is love!
Sad News:   Save Elephant Foundation rescued a newborn elephant who had been rejected by his mother.  He was brought to the park and spent is short life being loved and nursed by staff and volunteers.  For a couple of days it looked like he was gaining strength and would survive.

When I went to see him volunteers were tending him around the clock.   He certainly was well tended during his short stay. His mother, Mae Kham, was brought to the park in an attempt to re-unite the two.  When I was there a few days ago she was close to the baby’s pen and seemed interested in him.  Staff and volunteers were taking milk from her and feeding it to the baby.  Lek came and spent days and nights with him.  Volunteers watched over him 24 hours a day, taking 3 hour shifts. 

Sadly, the little guy made his transition late Saturday afternoon. There was a ceremony and he was buried at ENP on Sunday morning.  Just this morning, one good friend reminded me that Save Elephant Foundation did not own the baby. Had he survived the owners would have taken him back to their village; at least now he will never have to suffer the phajaan.  Could her own tortured past be the reason that Mae Kham chose to kill her own children?  The best we can hope for is that Mae Kham’s owners don’t’ try to breed her in the future.

Rest in Peace, Little Elephant, you are loved! 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Progress with Pang Pornsawan

I had the opportunity to visit Pang Pornsawan today.  She is doing well, very well actually.  I could never describe the progress she has made other than to show you photographs of then and now. 

31 August 2011, taken just before we put her on the truck to Lampang
16 December 2011, TECC Elephant Hospital, Lampang
18 July 2012, TECC Elephant Hospital, Lampang
I'm so very grateful for the doctors and staff at TECC who take excellent care of Pang, and all the elephants in their care.  I'm also very grateful to all the people involved in her rescue, her hospitilalization and her future! 

The amazing thing is that Pang maintains a very sweet disposition.  She and I have a connection that I really can’t explain.  Just trust me when I tell you that she knows me and we both know that I care deeply about her.  I have a sense that she really enjoys my company.  Never, never tell me that she should have been put down, or that she is just an animal.  Pang Pornsawan is a magical creature who is loving and very intelligent.
Pang and me, 18 July 2012, Tecc Elephant Hospital, Lampang
What will the future bring?  Well when all the raw red coloring is gone from her wound she will come to the Elephant Nature Park and there spend the rest of her days.  An estimate I was given today was we are about 6 months out.  I’m so looking forward to that day; hopefully I’ll be allowed to ride with her on the final leg of her journey from that minefield so far away!

Abundant Blessings,