The Trustees of STEF are delighted to announce the appointment of a new trustee. Mrs Gillian Newsum joined the Board in June 2019 and brings a wealth of experience to the Charity having previously been a Trustee of the University of Cambridge Veterinary School Trust for nine years, and has been involved in fundraising initiatives for the Addenbrooke’s and Rosie Hospitals in Cambridge.  In addition to being a Trustee of STEF, she is a Trustee of the Lujenna Educational Trust, and Chairman of the Cambridgeshire College Riding for the Disabled Group.

Gillian is a graduate of Reading University and spent 20 years as Equestrian Correspondent to Country Life magazine.  and has contributed to many other journals and newspapers, covering the major international equestrian events.  She is also the author or co-author of 10 books on equestrian subjects and famous horses.

A family visit to Phang Nga Elephant Park in 2018 was the high point in a life-long love of elephants, and intensified her interest in helping the domestic elephants of Thailand. She became fascinated by the STEF Thailand development at Ban Ton Sae and in the ecological approach to the environment in building an elephant hospital to benefit the many hundreds of domesticated elephants in the region.

If you follow us on Facebook you will have read of the sudden, tragic and devastating death of 17-month-old TONKAO on Monday 17 June 2019. This was a terrible loss to STEF trustee and Chair of STEF Thailand, Jakrapob Thaotad, and his colleagues at Phang Nga Elephant Park. The demise of this young, healthy and fun-loving youngster was deeply felt by many people around the world but particularly intensely by those who live and work with Jake and his elephant family.

TONKAO (whose name meant ‘rice seedling’) succumbed to Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV), one of the most devastating viral infections affecting young, fit Asian elephants. Scientists remain unclear how elephants get infected by the virus, where the virus persists, and what mechanisms drive the sudden deadly effects of the disease. A Buddhist service was held in her honour and she was buried in a family plot near to the Park.

A JustGiving campaign has been started in memory of TONKAO to help sponsor the rapid completion of the new STEF Thailand elephant veterinary centre. This clinic will ensure that elephants that are acutely sick receive fast, professional veterinary diagnosis and treatment. At present the nearest dedicated elephant hospital is over four hours’ drive away.

As you know, the building  is already underway but we need more money to try and complete it this year to provide lifesaving treatments for the elephant population across the region.

Help make it happen by supporting the TONKAO Memorial Fund.



Isolated locations with no mains electricity supply either have to make do without electricity, or generate their own. For our new veterinary clinic, Southern Thailand Elephant Foundation Thailand have opted for a renewable electricity generation system using solar power to generate the energy needed.

Of course an off-grid system is not the same as being on the mains, but it ensures economy of use, is far cheaper than getting a mains connection, and is much more ecosensitive, as well as being cheaper and quieter than using a petrol or diesel generator. For us, in the peace and quiet of the jungle where we are building a rest home and hospital for elephants it was a no-brainer.

Thanks to the generosity of a very special and generous benefactor, who shares our desire to use renewable energy, we have been able to plan for our needs now as the office and laboratory for the new veterinary clinic are being built. The roof will accommodate the solar panels needed to generate electricity and provide clean energy for lighting, air-conditioning and for the the pump to draw water from the bore hole to the storage tank at the rear of the clinic.

The Phuket-based specialist firm MonoSun Technology  has been advising Project Manager, Jake Thaotad, and an appropriate system has now been agreed. The layout, arc of the sun, and compass position of the building where the panels will be fixed are all key elements. We also have to remember that in the rainy season less sun gets through to generate electricity so there needs to be plenty of battery storage and the ability to add more panels or batteries later.

The MonoSun representatives were very interested in our program and took aerial photos of the site, as reported in an earlier blog.

We are convinced this is the right way forward and plan to build renewable energy sources into our plans for other buildings on the site.

Our Chairman, Andrew Higgins, has just returned from a visit to Ban Ton Sae where he met fellow trustee, and Chair of STEF Thailand, Jake Thaotad. Jake gave Andrew a thorough update on the development program, the construction works and there were many discussions on future plans, but of course the pace will always depend on funding. Clearly, the Elephant Veterinary Clinic is a priority and during his stay in Thailand, Andrew also arranged meetings with the former Head of Krabi Elephant Hospital, Dr Khajohnpat Boonprasert, an experienced elephant clinician, now based in Chiang Mai, to discuss design and operational issues.

Most of the tracks and drains have now been completed (left) and the next stage is to lay the foundations for the main clinic, and this work is scheduled to start in the next few weeks. Pillars will also be embedded ready to take the roof, and the office and lab will be built adjacent to the main foundations. The flooring is most important and must be reinforced to take the weight of one or more elephants. The project manager will also want to plan carefully for the off-loading and re-loading of elephants onto trucks via a carefully designed recess (right) known as a ha-ha (the origin may come from Old English meaning hedge but some say it reflects the surprise when used in a garden as a landscape feature (‘Ah ah’ or ‘Ha ha!), who knows?

Dr Higgins commented “We are most grateful to the generous trusts and individuals who have supported us so far and with your help we can continue with this vital work to assist the domesticated elephants in the Southern region with health and welfare needs.”

If you are able to help us, please do. Just click here.


Using a drone, we have been able to capture some amazing views of the new site at Ban Ton Sae. It shows clearly how much has been achieved in a very short time. Our thanks are due to the two technicians from Monosun who took the shots as part of their survey for the site’s renewable energy needs (more on that later).

You can see clearly the extensive roadworks that have been completed. This was a big job as the terrain is quite hilly and we needed to complete the work before the rains. The underlying surfaces had to be prepared, drains laid, and reinforced concrete thick enough to carry the weight of a truck carrying an elephant had to be laid. We took professional advice on the necessary strength of the concrete and are waiting now to test it out. At the top of the photo left, you can see the three pools that we have dredged and restored, and to the north of the pools will be the education centre. The clinic is at the southern border of the site and has been prepared ready for laying the concrete foundations in June 2019.

In this photo, right, you can see the layout for the clinic, To the left of the main barn will be the office and laboratory and we will allow space for future accommodation and an elephant research facility.

We are really beginning to feel things are coming together now and we will keep you fully informed of the latest news. Thank you very much for your continuing support and for following us on Facebook.

If you can help us a bit with a donation, we would be so grateful. Just click here.


STEF is helping to fund a much-needed veterinary clinic near Khok Kloi in Southern Thailand by supporting our sister charity, known as STEF Thailand, which is registered as a charity in Thailand and whose Chairman is Jakrapob Thaotad, known to all as Jake. Here is a video clip of Jake explaining his plans for the new site

Jake’s passion for the Asian elephant is well known and he gave up a promising career as a medical scientist in London to return to Thailand to work with elephants, to promote their care and welfare, using Education as a principle tool to achieve his objectives. Of course Jake wants the international community to know and share in his love for the elephant and to be aware of its status as an endangered species, but, equally, he is very aware of the importance of the elephant in Thailand’s culture and is determined that the knowledge of his family, which has worked with elephants for over 150 years, does not die out and is shared with future generations of Thai children and students.

One of the plans for the new site under development at Ban Ton Sae is to build an Education Centre which we hope will become a focus for teaching and research. We need to know so much more, not only about the wild elephant but also the domesticated elephant – it is estimated that there are between 3000 and 4000 wild elephants in Thailand and a similar number of domesticated elephants too.

We hope you will wish to assist Jake and his colleagues by donating to STEF and helping in this vital work to improve the health and welfare of the elephants in Southern Thailand but also to assist in education, training and research to benefit these wonderful animals in the long term. You can donate here or help by shopping on-line, or by sponsoring a tree at the new site. Thank you.

So while the contractors were on site feverishly completing the main roads around the site, we asked them also to include accompanying drains. These too must be properly laid with concrete on a compacted base. In this part of Southern Thailand where there is a long rainy season, drainage is so important. Of course it does not rain all the time but when it does it can be very heavy and roads can be washed away!

We are on schedule to start work on the Veterinary Centre soon and now the roads are down we will be able to get to the building site easily and continue working throughout the rainy season. We’ll keep you posted.

Our next target is to raise £4000 for the bore hole so if you know anyone who might help us raise the money for this important piece of the development, please do let us know. You can contact us simply by clicking here.


With the rains due to start in the next couple of weeks we are so pleased that our builders have pulled out all stops and we are confident they will complete the roadway and tracks at the site right on schedule. One very important aspect was drainage – and this was a serious part of the cost of the work – as the rain can be so heavy there would have been a real danger of parts of the newly laid concrete being washed away. Also, the layers of concrete could only be laid on carefully prepared with crushed stone and sand to achieve the desired load-bearing capacity and absorb loads that will include trucks carrying one or two elephants, as well as lorries full of builders’ materials for the next stages of development.

We are very pleased to have come so far in such a short time, thanks to some wonderful grants that we have received.  We will continue to fund raise actively so that we can move quickly to complete the clinic and build the education centre. If you can help us in any way at all please let us know by clicking here.

It has been hugely helpful to have one of our Trustees, and Chairman of our sister Thai charity, Jakrapob Thaotad, on hand to monitor and project manage the road building. It has taken a lot of his time but what an achievement! Thanks, Jake.

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.