With the rainy season fast approaching, our workforce are flat out getting the tracks laid so we can continue building in the rain. There is quite a slope up to the Veterinary Centre so lorries and trucks could not get to the building site without a strong road. This means solid foundations, reinforced concrete and excellent drainage – you can imagine what the rains in Thailand are like in the wet season!
So from a simple earthen track, we are well on the way to completing 270 metres of roadway from the entrance to the site to the parking and turning area at the place we have chosen for the clinic. Planning permission came through last month and we are progressing as fast as funds will allow. We need more money to complete the much-needed clinic so if you can help us to fund raise please let us know. Just click on the How You Can Help link.
You can see from the skies in the photos that the rains are not far away – so it is a bit of a race against time….
When the monks advised it was an auspicious day, we arranged a special blessing at the new site of our elephant Veterinary Centre near Ban Ton Sae. We invited a deeply respected and venerable monk, Phra Sirindhorn, to visit and offer prayers that the constructions works now underway would be completed successfully.
This sacred ground-breaking ceremony focused on consecrating the ‘main pillar’ of the new building of the Centre. The contractors participated throughout and the pillar, of specific dimensions and precisely placed, was erected with banana shoots and sugar cane on each side and special gifts were provided. Prayers were offered that the enterprise will thrive and the site will truly become a wonderful haven for elephants and for the community. Our Thai trustee, Jakrapob Thaotad, was central to the ceremony.
Such an age-old ceremony leads to a spiritual boost for the construction team and provides great confidence in their workmanship. The date for the ceremony, the location of the central pillar and the items to be used in the ceremony are all carefully chosen and reflect centuries of tradition. We include sacred woods, gold leaf, gold, silver and bronze coins and a holy thread, all with very special meanings. The offerings were buried alongside flowers and sealed in concrete, as tradition dictates.
It was a very special day for us as the work now gets underway.
With the rainy season arriving in only a few weeks’ time STEF Thailand has had to move fast to finalise planning permission and to get to work on the road on the new site. This is not a small job! About 270 metres of track, 4 m wide, will be laid from the entrance to the site, along the bottom of the valley and up the hill to the Veterinary Centre.
Roads require a lot of ground preparation, and in Southern Thailand, where we have really heavy rains, there has to be efficient and very effective drainage so the road is not washed away. In addition, the track surface has to be reinforced and strong enough to take trucks carrying 5-ton elephants.
Jake, our trustee who lives in Phang Nga, is on site several days a week. Having finalised the design and costs for the road with the architect, and our expert advisers, STEF Thailand has this week instructed the contractor to start work. Here you can see Jake deep in discussions just a few days’ ago before the work got underway. Time is against us, however, because if the road is not completed before the rains come, building works on the Centre itself will have to be delayed until after the rainy season ends in October.
But the good news is that the workmen are on site, the materials arriving and the weather is good. We will bring you regular News updates of progress.
Thank you to those wonderful donors who have supported us enabling us to make such a good start on our exciting project to benefit the health and welfare of needy elephants in Southern Thailand. If you would like to help us to raise money to assist us in our work please click here.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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 theyillustrate 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.
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Southern Thailand Elephant Foundation
31 Warren Avenue
Richmond upon Thames
Surrey, TW10 5DZ, UK