Over the past few weeks, fourteen new trees have been planted at the STEF site. Each species of tree was carefully chosen to be eco-friendly, to benefit the site for the elephants, and to attract native wildlife.

Across the 16 rie (6.32 acres) that we are developing as an elephant facility (primarily for retired elephants and later for conservation), eight cherry trees have been planted adjacent to the three pools to provide seasonal colour, with their magnificent white and pink flowers adding to the overall beauty of the area while providing vital shade for the elephants.

In the north-east corner of the site, which is at an elevated level, and where the elephants and mahouts will reside, rain trees (Albizia saman) have been planted in order to create large areas of shade, which are important for the elephants to keep cool as they do not sweat through their skin. A rain tree grows in a dome shape with a spread of up to 20-30m wide, as well as reaching some 30m in height, providing the elephants with the perfect umbrella needed in Southern Thailand’s rainy season.

Finally, a Banyan tree was planted in the far north east corner of the site, next to the future location of the elephant hospital. The magnificent Banyan tree is not only beautifully alluring for visitors, and impressive in structure, but has cultural and spiritual significance to the area, as legend has it that a spirit is released when a Banyan tree falls and a replacement needs to be planted for the lost spirit to dwell. Workers at the site have claimed to see the mysterious spirit already and hold the newly planted sapling in high regard. Here is a photo of our existing old Banyan tree and you can just make out Jake’s head at the bottom of the picture standing below it’s vast trunk.

Can you help us with the costs of these wonderful trees that will survive for generations? If you can, please click here.The work of planting these new trees was completed by a team of only five, as well as one of our trustees, Jake, in the scorching heat just before the rainy season.

Ollie has a short video to show how the tree planting is going:

Come back next week, to read another blog post on the new site’s progress!

It has been another frantic week at the site, with lots of action after numerous Thai contractors visited us to discuss the critical next stage with our Project Manager, Jake. One of the contractors is pictured sitting by a pool in his improvised hammock discussing the plans with Jake!

We have been looking at various ideas for the pools with the safety and comfort of the elephants in mind – remembering these are going to be elderly animals needing easy access.

Concrete is out as it is not in-keeping with the ecological ethos of the project, and we want to create a  natural waterway for the elephants to bathe in. It is important to have a range of substrates to walk on to encourage natural exfoliation of the elephants’ feet.

Here you can see some photos of the pools before work started and a 24 second video clip taken by Ollie

The pools are an essential part of maintaining a high standard of elephant welfare – STEF’s top priority. Not only for drinking, elephants love, and need, to bathe in order to cool down and get some respite from the hot sun. 

Two natural eco-sensitive ramps will be built to give the elephants an easy route into and out of the pool.

The other two pools to the east of the site will be dredged and re-profiled, and a water supply will be connected to allow them to be flushed through with clean water, so they remain fresh and silt-free. There will be a natural cascade of water between the middle pool and elephant pool. Trees growing between the pools will provide vital shade for the elephants around the centre .

This is a very exciting stage of the site’s development and we feel it will be a wonderful feature for our new family of elephants.

You can help us in our work to make this the most exciting home for retired elephants in Southern Thailand through a donation.  As STEF is a UK charity, if you use Gift Aid we can reclaim an extra 25% in tax on every eligible donation made by a UK taxpayer. If you can, please support us.

Come back next week, to read another blog post on the new site’s progress!