WHERE DO THE ELEPHANTS GO?
After being treated at FAE’s Elephant Hospital, an elephant is returned to its owner and transported back to Chiang Mai. (Photo by Michael Wysocki).
By Michael Wysocki
Everywhere I go I am so fascinated and curious, like there’s more to these Elephants than I realized. I have only been here a few days and I have seen five Elephants come or go. Where are they coming from? Where do they go?
I had the opportunity to have lunch today with Dr. Preecha ( FAE’s lead vet) . He is a kind man who has obviously seen a lot in his life. He carries a lot, almost like he is soaking up sin in this world, filtering it through his heart and spitting out compassion. I must say the same for Dr. Kay, total sweetheart. Dr. Preecha has lived in the Lampang province for a long time, and was cool enough to tell me about the area and why there is such need for an elephant hospital here. One reason is that Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second largest city, is only about an hour away with access to medicines and supplies. But the main reason is that Burma is only about 70 kilometers away, a country I know little about but am quickly learning. I know that coming from the western world, there is desire to visit Thailand and its exotic jungles, beaches, exciting cities, and tranquil Buddhist temples, even the surrounding countries of Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, but never Burma. In University, I did a presentation about the wildlife trafficking and the exploitation of Southeast Asia’s jungles, but it was no secret. Thailand seems to be the wealthiest and most developed country around, and with that comes roads and highways, or in my mind, unfortunate access to the forest and its resources. When that happens in this world, there are people who quickly take advantage of availability, completely ignoring needs of future generations, including their own. With that said, I believe Thailand has already pushed its wildlife to the limit in every corner.
As followers of FAE through “The Eyes of Thailand,” you probably know of an Elephant named Maekapae. She was brought to FAE after stepping on a landmine working the logs in the Tak Province, her back left foot exploded. There is a video clip of her trying to walk in 2010, I suggest the entire world view that. She arrived here August 4, 2010, and was taken by her owner September 13, 2011, the morning after her co- worker, Pa Hae Po checked in. I asked around the Mahouts today, a lot of them come from this camp with their Elephants to be with them during treatment, so they tell me of this camp because I am their friend. I have been taking head shots for them with their Elephants and we share them during meals, its funny. They keep mentioning a waterfall, and I’ve heard numbers ranging from 200 to 300 Elephants. They know of Maekapae and they tell me she is back to work at camp, hauling logs out of the forest. Wow!
FAE is not associated with government and its main focus is to open its doors to Elephants in need, no matter where they come from or how they became sick or injured. It is a place where owners can bring their Elephant to be treated, no questions asked. In a region where illegally abused Elephants make up the majority of the population, this makes FAE the “real” conservation center of the region in my eyes. FAE hospital has treated over 3,500 Elephants since it opened its doors in 1994, Elephants that with out this opportunity would most likely die. How do you think logging camps replace dead Elephants? My guess would be THE WILD.