Friday, March 23, 2012

Observation and Questions - a Day at TECC

A day at TECC is usually very pleasant. I did get a chance to visit with Pangpornsawan for a few moments.  She is doing very well and the TECC staff still fret when I want to get close enough to touch her. Hey, they are just doing their job.
Pangpornsawan 22 March 2012
Other than the quick visit with Pang, yesterday was taxing to say the least. There are more questions and fewer answers.  I will preference this by sharing with you that I have made a commitment to do more research before I write anything that could be called definitive, anything with any sort of a conclusion.  I do not know enough about TECC and to that end I have been granted an interview with Richard Lair who has been involved with Thai elephants for some 27 years.  He is affiliated with the Thai Elephant Conservation Center.   I have also made a commitment to personally visit Saiyok Elephant Park in Kanchanaburi.  It was from them that 19 elephants were confiscated. They also own the two baby elephants that were confiscated from Phuket.

In the morning I met Khun Chaiyapong Sandee and his family. The original intent of the trip to to TECC was to visit their elephants and see how are they doing since they were moved here.  However, they had learned through unofficial channels that one of their elephants had died. They were at TECC to learn the circumstances surrounding the death of one of their elephants, to visit the surviving elephants and work on having their elephants returned.

When he got to TECC office, he was officially informed about the death of his elephant. Sri Thong was a very healthy about 17 year old female who died at approximately 5:00 a.m. on March 20th.  According to one of the attorneys who spoke with a doctor at TECC, She passed at 5:00 a.m., an autopsy was performed at 5:00 p.m. Tissue samples were sent to a university in Chiang Mai; results are expected in a week.  I also learned she was buried that same day.  According to an article posted on at about 3:00 a.m. today TECC had reported the death to the local police.  No details of the death were included in the article.  However, it did say that if it’s determined that the elephant was illegal, the government will have no requirement to compensate for her loss.  A family member told me that they have never received any official notification of Sri Thong’s death; that they learned of it through word of mouth.  The family had a meeting with TECC officials, were provided with some information but seemed to leave with a lot of unanswered questions.  One thing they are requesting if a copy of the video of the autopsy. I am told that request is still pending. Needless to say there are more unanswered questions surrounding this poor elephant and her demise.

I went with Khun Chaiyaphong Sandee and his family to visit the other elephants.  There is a mother and a calf about 1 year old who seem to be in pretty good shape. At least they are together.  The two babies who were confiscated from Phuket are about 2 years old. They are in a pen together, both on short chains.  10 elephants are under a long shelter, 3 under a separate shelter and the remaining 3 were in a nearby forest.  My Thai is not that good, but as I understand it there is a lot of concern about these elephants not having enough food, enough water, exercise or shelter.  What I observed was that the 13 in shelters did not have food or water near them.  Clearly the elephants and the people were stressed.  The weather was hot and emotions ran high. Khun Chaiyaphong is very worried about the rest of his elephants, worried that they could be become ill or die if they have to remain at TECC. He is working to have the rest of his elephants returned.
Not Enough

Three under a makeshift shelter, no water, no food!

Babies in Chains
I spoke at some length with two of the family members, whose English is excellent.  They claim that each of the confiscated elephants had valid papers, but in each case there were discrepancies in the descriptions.  According to them, 2 DNP staff visited their camp on January 24th to collect information, then on the 25th, The National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department chief, Khun Damrong Pidej, led a raid of some 200 armed men, demanding to immediately see all the certificates.  Quickly copies were made and surrendered to DNP. The camp had, at that time, 51 elephants but handed over papers on 58 elephants.  DNP wanted to know why there were 7 extra papers. Saiyok Elephant park staff insisted it was an oversight caused by the pressure to immediately produce.  They had included copies of documents about elephants that were no longer there.

DNP left with instructions to have the description sections of the certificates updated at the local office.  However, when they went to the government office they were told that no adjustments to the certificates could be made while they were under investigation.  On 29 February, 19 elephants were confiscated from Saiyok and transported to TECC.

I asked if DNP uses the microchip information.  No!  It turns out that the microchip information is maintained by Department of Livestock Development and apparently there is no coordination between the two departments.  Saiyok elephant staff said, all of their adult elephants has been micro chipped; most of them 10 to 15 years ago. All information about elephants including sex, age, place elephants were micro chipped, previous owner’s name and address have been recorded as a database at Bureau of Disease Control and Veterinary Service, Surin province.  If I understand this correctly wild elephants come under the jurisdiction of Department of National Parks and domestic elephants under the jurisdiction of Department of Livestock.

As I said at the beginning Gentle Reader, there are far more questions than answers.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Status of Asian Elephant Stories

Gentle Reader,

As many of you, this blog disappeared for a day and then reappeared without comment.  The best explanation that I have received was from the Blogger Help Forum:  “It can be a glitch, you don't need to worry about it, sometimes Google system makes mistake but as soon as they realize it, they correct it. Once it deleted my Google account (this account) but after an week they gave my Account back. “

I like that explanation; it’s the least controversial and actually makes some technical sense.  On the other hand this and the content I have been posting could have some connection, or not.  In any case I’ve decided to take two actions:

1st I’ve started some research on blog options.  I may end up moving Asian Elephant Stories to a different platform.   I would be most interested in your feedback and would love to hear from you. This would also be an opportunity for me to change the appearance etc.  Please share with me your thoughts.

2nd I thought I would compile a list information sources and share them with you.  That we can do today.  The caveat for this list is it must be about elephants. That’s difficult to really define, so I won’t.  Some of the postings are good, others are not.  Some are written by people who know what they are talking about, some are not.  Some express opinions with which I agree, some express opinions with which I disagree.  Although I love living in Thailand, I hail from the United States where freedom of speech is one of our basic tenants.

1. FaceBook has several elephant and animal conservation groups.  There is a definite downside to this option and that is you can very quickly drown in your own inbox.  O.K. You have been warned, here are some of the FaceBook groups to which I belong:

     a. Elephant Nature Park & Foundation

     b. Save Queenie Save Elephants

     c. The Ugly Truth About Elephant Rides

     d. Bring The Elephant Home

      e. Save The Elephants (see below)

2. Save The Elephants at has a lot of information they also offer to add you to an email list where you can subscribe to their news lists. Details are on the website under Communication -> Elephant News Service. This website also contains an extensive list of elephant related links.

3. Google Alerts. I just set up a google alert for the word “elephant”. I get a list that includes a lot of totally irrelevant listings, but it does catch a good share of the ones that are interesting to me.

4. I read John Robert’s blog at:  I read others as well but this one is always well written and, at least to me and to John's mother, quite interesting.

There are certainly other excellent sources.  Send me your favorite and I just might add it to this list.

Abundant Blessings, 


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Pang Porn Sawan Update & a QUESTION if you don’t mind

Today I made a trip to the Thai Elephant Conservation Center (TECC) at Lampang.  This time I went with two things to do, see Pang and learn about the confiscated elephants that recently arrived at TECC.          
So what did I learn?   Well I’m told by the people at TECC that there are 19 recently confiscated elephants at TECC.  However, they were unwilling to give me any specific information.  They refused to let me see these new elephants, never mind allowing me to film or photograph them.  My QUESTION is simple:   Why?

I was hoping for real elephants, but not this time. 
At the TECC hospital I visited with Pang Porn Sawan, hospital stall and her faithful Mahut Khun Tor Pe Do.  Tor Pe Do is a gentle as Pang, they make a great pair.  

Tor Pe Do with Pang
The first thing I learned about Pang today is that he name, at least in the hospital, is Pang Ma Ae.  Why the change?  I don’t know and can’t speak enough Thai to get an explanation.  Pang by any name is still one marvelous elephant.

The Eye of Pang Porn Sawan
I hung out with her for almost an hour today.  Being with her reminds me of what a gentle soul she really is.  Her disposition amazes me.  I can only imagine how much she has suffered and yet there she it, loving and gracious.  For the first few minutes Tor Pe Do seemed concerned that I wanted to be so close to her but somehow Pang assured him it was O.K.  I knew immediately that she recognized me and was accepting of my presence.

I Love This Elephant
Her wounded foot is healing and really looks good.  Just to compare I’ll post photo’s from the beginning through today so you can see for your self.   I have an immense respect and much gratitude for the TECC Elephant Hospital.

The wounded foot 19 September 2011

The Foot, 7 March 2012
Abundant Blessings to you Gentle Reader,