A better life for Thailand’s elephants
STEF provides free veterinary care to elephants in Southern Thailand to improve their welfare and protect their future.
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STEF provides free veterinary care to elephants in Thailand to ensure they can live without pain and suffering. We have a specialist vet team based at our new elephant hospital near Khok Kloi in Phang Nga Province. We also operate a mobile veterinary clinic so that our vets can reach sick or injured elephants even in the most remote areas of Southern Thailand.
Elephant welfare in Thailand came under the spotlight during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic when owners were struggling to feed their elephants. Our response was to run a major campaign which raised enough funds (through corporate sponsorship and private donations) to enable us to deliver over 700 truck-loads of feed to hungry elephants.
Please help us to continue to save elephants by supporting our vital work (see: How you can help). We need to continue to provide free veterinary care to vulnerable elephants. We are a small charity, run almost entirely by volunteers, but we have big plans: in the future, we hope to promote education and research about elephant welfare and conservation, and also to provide a rest home for old or abandoned elephants.
raised in the last 2 years
hospital cases in the last year
travelled with the mobile clinic in the last year
vet volunteers booked on our programme
Here at STEF, we are passionate about the health and well-being of these gentle giants. In the last four years, we have funded the building of the only NGO (non-governmental organisation) elephant hospital in Southern Thailand. The hospital, run by local Thai vets, is based at Khok Kloi, Phang Nga Province (north of Phuket) and occupies land that has been reclaimed from an old rubber plantation, creating a bio-diverse environment for Asian elephants and other native wildlife to enjoy. Before the Veterinary Centre was opened in July 2022, the only other elephant hospital was a four-hour drive by truck across the country – a miserable journey for a sick, injured or recently treated animal.
One day we hope this location will also become an education centre for elephant welfare and care, drawing elephant enthusiasts and veterinary practitioners from around the world to exchange information and to better understand the needs of the endangered Asian elephants. The project will work to further support elephant conservation by increasing knowledge on all aspects of elephant medical treatment and welfare.
STEF was founded in 2017 by Thai medical sciences graduate Jakrapob Thaotad (known as Jake) whose concerns about the welfare of elephants in Thailand led him to set up a charity that could address the many issues surrounding elephants in Thailand. These range from health, welfare, lack of natural habitat, tourism, education and the endangered status of Asian elephants in Thailand and elsewhere.
Elephants are immensely important in Thai culture. The elephant is their national emblem and is ingrained in Thai literature, Buddhist teaching, architecture, film, the monarchy, and so many other parts of everyday Thai life. The elephant represents purity and luck (particularly in baby elephants), mental strength, intelligence, heritage and family bonds. They have been used throughout history for manual labour, logging (which is now banned in natural forests), war, and as a symbol of royalty – as seen in the 10 white elephants received by King Bhumibol Adulyadej during his 70-year reign.
Unfortunately, due to the human impacts of deforestation, farming and plantations, Thailand’s wild elephants have little natural habitat left, and the domesticated elephants have no forests to which to return (even if there was enough natural habitat left for them, they would have little understanding of how to survive in the wild, having been domesticated for centuries). In order to conserve these animals, we are working together with elephant owners to educate them in elephant care and welfare, including the provision of healthy food and treatments for injuries, and we provide veterinary support where financially they cannot.
Our elephant medical care is given free of charge to encourage poor owners (known as mahouts), often living in remote areas of the region, to seek medical help and advice for their elephants without the fear of being unable to pay. As a result, our chief veterinary officer, Dr Aon, and her assistant Dr Mink, are now extremely busy answering calls, giving advice and visiting individual elephants or those in elephant camps, and looking after patients at our elephant hospital.
Treatments for colic, worms, lice infestations, major trauma injuries, dehydration, and bacterial and viral infections – to name a few – are being dealt with on a regular basis, improving the lives of domesticated Asian elephants in the region.
STEF has been providing a mobile veterinary clinic since November 2020, visiting elephants in the Provinces of Phuket, Phang Nga, Krabi and Surat Thani. This clinic will continue to offer care for elephants that do not need to come to the hospital or that are too ill to travel. As we previously mentioned, care costs nothing, thanks to your kind donations, and we have the opportunity to give practical advice to the mahouts to protect their elephants going forwards after treatment.
There has been some controversy surrounding the cruel mistreatment of elephants, primarily in the tourism sector, which has resulted in much stricter rules around keeping elephants. However, the job of a mahout is often passed down from generation to generation and is a huge honour. The culture behind the mahouts is rich and steeped in history, and many will love and care for an elephant their whole lives, building very strong familial bonds with them. STEF works to support this bond with knowledge and resources. We acknowledge that the relationship between the Thai people and elephants has a long history and is inevitably complex. We hope you also see both sides of the story.
Our budget for the next year for medicines, saline solution, general medical supplies and laboratory testing comes to £45,000.
And this doesn’t include the cost of employing two vets and other staff and running the mobile clinic.
As an elephant charity, we need to raise this money to keep our hospital and mobile clinic fully functional and to continue helping elephants in Thailand to lead happier, healthier lives – something these wonderfully unique and intelligent animals deserve.
You can support our mission to save Thailand’s elephants by donating today, or you could even join our community and become one of our volunteers, or perhaps travel to Thailand to participate in our veterinary volunteer programme.
There are many ways in which you can take action and get involved to help STEF help elephants in need