Our President, Sir Richard Armstrong paid a visit to Ban Ton Sae last week and spent two days reviewing progress with STEF trustee Jakrapob Thaotad. Jake lives near the site and has been overseeing all the work during the last year, clearing the plantation of rubber trees, removing palm oil trees, dredging the ponds, planting new eco-friendly, sustainable trees and shrubs, grasses and aquatic plants including the sacred lotus.

Sir Richard closely follows all developments in STEF and attends all meetings of the trustees (with Jake usually participating on Skype). He expressed his delight at the progress that had been made sine his last visit in 2018. With Jake, they discussed the plans for the new Veterinary Centre that we hope to complete within the year. We are currently actively fundraising for the funds needed to complete the work.

The location at Ban Ton Sae is quite beautiful and now the ponds are being cleared, the grasses are growing well and the trees have established themselves we can begin to see what the haven will look like and how peaceful it will be for old, unwanted, lame or needy elephants.

Once funds are achieved for the Veterinary Centre, we will move to build our Education Centre – as, alongside health and welfare, education is the cornerstone of conservation, and we intend actively to promote knowledge about the Asian elephant, its care, and the significance of this magnificent animal in Thai culture.

If you will help us on our way, please click here to donate, or sponsor a tree or just visit our shop and buy on line. Thank you.

We have just finalised the design for the new STEF Veterinary Centre at Ban Ton Sae. We have kept the design very simple – it is a covered barn, but needs a reinforced concrete floor to take the weight of one or more elephants and we have used the technical advice of the designer of the Government’s Elephant Hospital. Based on this advice, our own architect has produced these excellent concept design pictures so you can get an idea of our plans for 2019.

The first stage is to complete the track from the road to the Clinic. This will ensure works can continue throughout the rainy season. Then we will lay the foundations for the barn and include stocks, barriers and a recessed vertical step (called a haha) for off-loading and loading elephant patients (you can see it to the right of the main picture). We will then complete the simple office and lab which can be used by local veterinarians and our own veterinary technicians.

We believe there is a very real and urgent health and welfare need to serve hundreds of domesticated elephants in this part of Southern Thailand. We will care here for elephants that are sick or unable to work through age, illness or are otherwise needy. It is a Community Support Project.

Can you help us to raise the funds we need? Our immediate need is for £17,000 for the track and we would welcome any support you may be able to give. Please just click here to donate. We will be happy recognise all donations in an appropriate way. Or please write and ask for more details by filling out the Contact Us form.

 

 

The advancement and encouragement of the ethical treatment, welfare, and veterinary care of the Asian elephant in Thailand will only occur through education. One of STEF’s principle aims since it was set up has been to promote education both to the people of Thailand and internationally. With these objectives in mind, the Trustees set up an initiative called PLACE2C, to sponsor group visits, particularly of children, to approved and ethically-based elephant centres in Phang Nga Province.

In December 2018, we sponsored our first PLACE2C group visit and asked the Yaowawit charitable foundation, that cares for disadvantaged and marginalised children, if they would like to visit the Phang Nga Elephant Park, run and owned by STEF trustee Jakrapob Thaotad.

Yaowawit School is the home of 138 children, aged 4-18, offering a holistic (body, mind and spirit) education and pre-vocational training in hospitality and agriculture.  Its mission is to  provide  life skills to help children in need to become open-minded, confident, caring and happy human beings. The STEF offer was accepted with alacrity, and we were delighted to arrange the day at no cost to Yaowawit. Local transporters offered to help with special rates for the transport, and the Park, which was closed to other visitors for the day, generously provided food and staff giving the students a very full and constructive programme.

Twenty students aged 7-12 were able to meet the elephants, learn about them and participate in a wonderful range of educational activities. The students learned about the history, management, welfare and healthcare of the Asian elephant and its essential role in Thai culture. They saw how to make elephant food balls, which can be used as supplements, and were able to meet and feed some of the magnificent elephants at the Park. The value of elephant-human interaction is critically important and it was wonderful to see the children responding to the feel, smell and touch of these magnificent animals. An arts and crafts session was included, with prizes for the most creative and distinctive elephant art.

Finally the students had a chance to plant elephant grass as a thought-provoking way of giving something back to the animals that are such a treasure of this great country. STEF provided a souvenir bag for each of the visitors as they left.

We will carefully assess the success of this visit, and hopefully will be regularly inviting other special school groups to participate in our PLACE2C programmes. Will you support our efforts in education? Please click here.

The Trustees of STEF have approved a proposal to prioritise the building of an Elephant Veterinary Centre at Ban Ton Sae in 2019.  There is an urgent health and welfare need in this part of Southern Thailand where there is no alternative veterinary facility to serve some 600 domesticated elephants, and the nearest elephant hospital is over four hours’ drive away. STEF plans to create a safe, well-managed veterinary centre for elephants that need veterinary care, or are no longer able to work through age or illness, or that have become a burden to their owners.

It is still only a plan, but we have commissioned an architect to produce drawings for the clinic. We have identified the site for the building and and funds already raised in 2018 have allowed us to clear the land and prepare it for building works. You can see us here measuring out the land.

The work will be staged and will progress as we can afford it. We will start with a covered yard with concrete base, stocks and an off-loading barrier. We will also lay a suitable access track, include an isolation unit and build a small office, storeroom and laboratory.

The Centre will be a Community Support Project that will benefit elephants and their owners over a 50-mile radius. STEF Thailand will  work closely with the local people, and especially with veterinarians who will be welcome to use the clinic. Please follow our News items and we will keep our supporters regularly updated as the planning proceeds.

We do need the help of our friends too. Please help us to help these magnificent animals in a practical and important way.

 

We are delighted that STEF Thailand has now been formally registered by the Government of Thailand as a Charity. As our sister charity, STEF Thailand is now able to receive donations in Thailand as well as to apply for charitable funds and gifts. STEF Thailand’s stated aims include the health and care of elephants, to provide education and understanding about the elephant, the ancient traditions associated with them in Thai culture, to undertake research that can be directly applied in the field, and to provide a home for old or disabled elephants and those unable to work or live normally in the Southern Province of Thailand.

The land at Ban Ton Sae has been transferred to STEF Thailand enabling this beautiful site to be developed by a non-profit organisation solely in fulfillment of the charity’s objectives.

There are three founder trustees. Jakrapob Thaotad, pictured left with STEF President, Sir Richard Armstrong, has been appointed Chair of the charity; Jake is also a trustee of STEF and you can read more about him on this website if you click here.

He is joined by Dr Siraya Chunekamrai (right), an internationally renowned Thai veterinarian, who was educated at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Kasetsart University and Cornell University in the USA; in addition to her two practices (The Animal Farm Veterinary Hospital, a small animal practice in Bangkok, and the Horsepital Equine Hospital), she founded the Lampang Pony Welfare Foundation in northern Thailand and the Cambodia Pony Welfare Organization based in Phnom Penh. She is currently Vice-President of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association.

The third trustee (left) is Mr Adisak Keanghere, a distinguished lawyer who lives in Krabi; Adisak is also a farmer, has a great fondness for elephants and believes strongly in the importance of education.

 

STEF Chair, Dr Andrew Higgins, paid a visit to Ban Ton Sae this month to see for himself the progress that is being made in developing the land for elephant care. He was given a full tour by fellow trustee, Jakrapob Thaotad, who is managing the development and whose sharp and creative eye has led to the design of the land and its landscaping so that it is not only ideal for caring for elderly elephants and those in need of help, but also so that Ban Ton Sae can be a centre of excellence for education and research.

Dr Higgins said “I have been amazed at what Jake has achieved since my last visit in February. All of the rubber trees have been removed, the ground has been cleverly landscaped, new grass has grown dramatically quickly, and the trees planted before the rains have all taken root. Jake and his small team have worked incredibly hard to achieve so much in such a short time, and we must now do all we can to keep raising the funds to keep up the momentum for this project that is so important for the elephants and the community of Southern Thailand”.

During his stay, Dr Higgins also discussed priorities and how best to identify the next stages of the work.  If you can help, please give what you can by clicking here.

As part of the STEF objectives of sustainability, we are developing the hilly slopes at Ban Ton Sae for cultivating the crops we shall require for our elephants and humans. We need to grow rice, pineapples, bamboo and elephant grass and this will require careful agricultural management. But our aim is to grow all our needs on our own land.

Because the land is hilly, we must use terracing. A terrace is a sloped plane cut into a series of platforms or steps. These are hugely important in our climate as they minimise erosion and can support the growing of crops that require irrigation, such as rice.

The famous Ifugao Rice Terraces in the Philippines became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 as they illustrate the remarkable ability of human culture to adapt to new social and climate pressures as well as to implement and develop new ideas and technologies. (Photo right from Wikipedia).

Our terraces are on a very small scale but have already been carved into the hillside. They will be fed by the natural springs on site. In the old days, such terracing was very labour intensive but modern machinery has made it relatively easy for us. We can almost visualise what the hills will look like once the first crops appear. We also think the terraces really enhance the hilly terrain, replacing the vast number of rubber trees and palm oil trees that were grown there previously.

Here on the left is a picture to suggest what it may look like next year.

If you can support our work, please donate. Any gift, large or small, will be very much appreciated as we strive to create an ecocentre for elephants in Southern Thailand. Just click here.

STEF Trustee Peter Laurie has been working in animal welfare since he graduated from Oxford University. You can read about his background if you click here. We thought we would ask him a few questions about what drew him to STEF and how he sees the charity developing in the future.

Q.: So, Peter, what got you interested in STEF?

Peter: I have long held an interest in conservation and the environment, particularly in Asia. The chance to get involved in a new charity, seeking to help one of the region’s most culturally important but endangered animals was too good to miss. I also hope to help STEF through my experience working in and supporting a range of other animal welfare charities.

Q.: Thank you. What do you see as the most important part of STEF’s mission?

Peter: STEF has two main priorities: education, which is the cornerstone of animal welfare; and direct conservation. We aim to combine the two by supporting a new conservation park at Ban Ton Sae near Phuket.

Q.: How often do you visit Thailand?

Peter:  I visited Thailand for the first time this February, to learn more about STEF’s work and the challenges facing the Asian elephant. I am looking forward to becoming a regular visitor to this beautiful country. My happiest memory is of the sun setting and as the clouds begin to form around the peaks of the jungle-covered hills, watching from close quarters a herd of elephants bathing in a clear shallow stream – it was simply a fantastic sight that I shall never forget.  

Q.: We will look forward to your further visits. How do you see STEF expanding in the future?

Peter: Developing the Ban Ton Sae site is a major and hugely exciting project, and STEF will be supporting its development and growth so that it offers an increasing range of services and support for elephants in need of help. In the years ahead, we expect to be able to help them to add a much-needed animal healthcare centre as well as education and visitor facilities. But we are of course open to supporting other projects and initiatives that fit in with our charitable objectives. Our mission is to deliver a sustainable future for Thailand’s elephants.

Q.: That is so important. Thank you. Any other thoughts?

Peter: STEF gives elephant-lovers a rare opportunity to support the work of a brand new conservation park with a refreshing approach and attitude that will deliver care and protection for Thailand’s elephants for generations to come. It is so inspiring to see the progress that is being made and all donations – large or small – are truly welcomed by the trustees.

Q.: It is wonderful to have your support. Thanks for the chat.

To donate to STEF, please click here

 

 

 

 

 

The rains brought their challenges, but also brought beauty. The grasses are growing and the trees that we planted earlier in the year are beginning to take root. Of particular joy is the way that the lotus has flourished. Under the guidance of P’Jinda we planted pink and white lotus plants in the ponds at Ban Ton Sae to enhance the environment making it a very Thai experience.

The lotus (bua in Thai) is important in the everyday life of the Thai people and is the traditional flower of Buddhism. Legend has it that when the Lord Buddha took his first steps, lotus blooms opened up to cushion the soles of his feet. With its roots in the mud, the plant rises above the dirty water to yield a flower of perfect beauty and purity. Indeed, for Buddhists, the flower stands for pureness of spirit and the flowers are widely used as offerings at shrines, in spirit houses and in the temple.

However, the lotus has many other uses. The roots, petals and stamens of some varieties are used by herbalists to treat a variety of complaints from fainting attacks to acne, and from the lowering of blood cholesterol to stomach upsets.  In fact, most of the lotus plant is edible. Some people will eat the raw seeds, others might boil up the dried seeds in syrup as a popular drink; moreover, the roots can be mixed with pork to make a delicious soup, and the leaves and stems of some species can be used in salads. The leaves are also used to wrap steamed rice, giving it a mild lotus fragrance; when fresh, the lotus leaves are useful as (biodegradable) wrappers. In the old days, dried lotus petals were used to roll cigarettes.

The lotus is undeniably beautiful and adds charm to the surroundings. We want the lotus to be visible part of our Thai world at Ban Ton Sae, where the Thai culture must never be forgotten.

For several decades, palm oil cultivation on a commercial scale in some south-east Asian countries has resulted in a very serious impact on the natural environment, causing widespread deforestation and loss of natural habitat and threatening critically endangered species such as the Asian elephant, orangutan, Sumatran tiger, gibbons, hornbills, and other organisms that are trying to survive in the wild.

Oil palms have been harvested by humans for over 5,000 years and palm oil has even been found in a tomb in Ancient Egypt dating back to 3,000 BC. But it was in the 19th century that palm oil suddenly became widely used in Europe and America as an industrial lubricant and cooking oil, and as the basis of many famous household products ranging from soap and toothpaste to ink and pizza dough. The oil comes from the red pulp of the fruits which are small and oval and grow in clusters of several hundred, close to the trunk on short heavy stalks. The fruit is black and red when ripe, and is fibrous and oily around a white kernel that is also rich in oils.

Because the oil palm trees produce fruit continuously throughout the year, with new bunches ripening each month, the fruit is always in season. A very sharp knife is used to cut off the fruit bunches. As the tree grows, it develops a very thick, distinctive scaly trunk, and large spreading crowns.

Nowadays in Thailand most of the oil palms are cultivated on smallholdings that practice sustainable cultivation. The picture is not so rosy in some other countries but at last big companies are coming under a lot of international pressure to ensure their palm oil production is sustainable. In some places, farmers, whose lives depend on the crops, will try to discourage elephants from eating their plantations and in extreme cases may even try to poison them.

Please help us in our education mission. Your donation, however small, is seriously important to us. If you can, please click here.