The Story of STEF

Jakrapod Thaotad, founder of STEF

Jakrapod Thaotad, known as Jake, is a quiet man with a burning ambition to make life better for elephants in Thailand.  He has been the driving force behind STEF which, within three years of its inception, has enabled the construction and opening of a much-needed elephant veterinary centre in Khok Kloi, Southern Thailand.  And Jake hasn’t finished yet.  His next plan – once the elephant hospital has all the funds necessary for equipment and running costs – is to develop the land around the hospital into a sanctuary for old or abandoned elephants that can be given the chance to live the rest of their lives in a natural jungle environment.

It’s a remarkable ambition for a man who, since the age of five – when the family elephant Choosri roared at him – had been terrified of elephants.  That was until he returned home to Thailand from London, where he had been working in a major life sciences company (see here), and persuaded his cousin, Lek, to remove Choosri from the logging camp where she was working and bring her home to work on the family’s own land in Phang Nga.  To pay for Choosri’s keep, and to make a living from their land, Jake and Lek decided to create an ethical elephant park; one in which the welfare of the elephants would be paramount. The park opened in 2015 (see PNEP).

Jake’s next move was to team up with Dr Andrew Higgins, a well know British veterinarian who was already helping out as a scientific advisor at the new elephant park.  They set up the charity STEF Thailand with the aim of supporting Thai elephants by providing care, and by educating the Thai people about the health and welfare of an animal that has been sacred to Thailand for thousands of years.  But it soon became clear that to gain sufficient funding for this project, they would need to appeal to the wider international community, so in late 2017 a sister charity, STEF, was formed and registered in the UK.

Since then STEF (which was operated entirely by volunteers for its first three years) has, through the dedication of its Trustees, raised enough funds to pay for the construction of the STEF Veterinary Centre Khok Kloi, which in itself has been quite a feat.  Work often stalled for lack of funds, drenching monsoon rains, delays by contractors, and then, in March, came Covid 19.  Work ground to a standstill during the lockdown, but anyway STEF suddenly found it had more important things to concentrate on: starving elephants.  The demise of the tourist industry had left owners with no means to pay for the keep of their elephants, and STEF raised over £40,000 to buy and supply food to more than 200 elephants in Southern Thailand.

In spite of the setbacks, the STEF Veterinary Centre officially opened on 12 November 2020 and immediately began treating elephants in the field with its mobile clinic.  The clinic’s presence is already having an impact on the local elephant population.  STEF’s aim is to provide veterinary services free of charge, as we understand how many elephant owners struggle to pay the costs incurred for treatments and for transporting elephants to a specialist hospital (there are no other elephant hospitals in the Phang Nga or Phuket provinces).  But to do this we need your support.  We still need funds for more equipment and medicines, and to pay for the salaries our veterinary officer and her assistant.   Please help us to continue our work to care for these wonderful animals and to ensure that Jake realises his inspirational ambition.  See: Become a Medicine Angel

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