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Work on the pools has progressed really well over the last week. The trusty team of five from our chosen contractor, and the fantastic digger driver, speedily completed the planned work on the pools and cascade in just over 2 weeks.

Two of the pools have been dredged and re-profiled to ensure the water is revitalised, replacing the old, stagnant water that has been left

 

 

 

untouched for years. This will encourage more pool life to thrive, as well as maintaining the fauna already in the pools like this gourami (we put it back after the photo was taken!).

The purpose of the re-profiling is to create a base around the pools for our planting program, and space for the rocky boulders we will move in to enhance the natural look of the pools. We are determined to maintain the eco-sensitive design of the site to ensure it is in keeping with our ecological ethos.

Creating an attractive area by the pools has the added benefit of providing our future elephants and visitors with a cool area by the water, and shade for them to relax. Visitors will be able to quietly enjoy watching the elephants roaming, feeding and bathing in their natural jungle surroundings.

Re-profiling will also help to reduce the risk of the water stagnation and inhibit growth of algae. The water supply will extend down to the elephant pool, where an outlet has been installed for a hosepipe so the resident mahouts will be able to shower the elephants before they enter the water to prevent the pool becoming silted up – elephants do love to play with dirt and sand, rolling in the mud in the rain, and throwing it on their backs to protect themselves from the sun. (Dirt sprays also stop those pesky mosquitoes and horseflies landing on the skin!)

Whilst there is still a lot to do, this week’s fantastic work on the pools, which are integral to the elephants’ welfare, highlights the excellent progress we are making. You can see more on Ollie’s helpful 24-second video clip:

Can you help us finish the job? Click here to help us get the site in the best condition for the elephants’ welfare….

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!

One of STEF’s trustees, Jake Thaotad, is currently based in Thailand and keeps a very close eye on the development work at Ban Ton Sae.

On a recent visit, we asked him for his opinion on how the work is going and what were the future plans.

Jake said: “This has been an exciting but challenging project working against the clock to get as much done before the rainy season arrives. The team has done so well clearing all of the rubber trees and, with the help of Lee Sambrook, we have now got a very clear idea of how to lay out the land in an ecofriendly way so it is best suited to our elephants. We have had to change our plans as the work progressed as although the natural pools appear ideal for the elephants to bathe and relax only one of these has proved suitable for elephant use. Fortunately this is the largest and widest, with the best surrounding access for the elephants and will provide an excellent focus for visitors to watch these wonderful animals bathing.”

With Jake able to speak both Thai and English fluently, his regular visits to the site have been invaluable to direct the Thai workers and to ensure each part of the plan’s execution is undertaken correctly and to our ecosensitive specification. One aspect of this has been the planting of the new trees, as well as making sure the soil is prepared and ready for the turf to be laid. One of our labourers has been working on this land for over 40 years, so understands the soil behaviour and the effects of the seasonal weather on the land.

Soon our thoughts must turn to the education and visitor centres, which we plan to build on stilts so elevating the buildings to provide protection against the effects of the heavy rains and to give a more natural look. We need a lot more funding for this next phase, so if you can help us a bit, please do and click here.

It’s been great to talk to Jake on site this week, and you can read more about him and his passion for the work of STEF here.

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

Since completing the clearance of the land, there are some piles of consolidated vegetation debris that still need to be removed. It is now a race against time before the rains come. Having the digger on site is very handy in progressing onto the next stage – forming the structure and topography of the land to create a usable and accessible environment where the elephants can graze and roam. Our Technical Adviser, Lee Sambrook, and Jake are very pleased with progress.

 

 

 

 

The work has included reducing the gradient and undulation of the land by filling in the ditches, discovered around the land when it was cleared, and regrading the slopes with excess soil, in order to allow the elephants to more easily freely roam. In turn, this also will help the workers when it comes to the next stage on the site – laying the turf.

The digger has been used carefully to design and forge the pathways around the site. This was done in order to route visitors around the site via higher vantage points and the pools to see the elephants grazing and bathing from the best possible view, and to enjoy the planned cascading water between the pools. The paths also neatly direct visitors past the planned sites for the education, visitor and research centres, as well as the hospital, in the order we would like them to. As the paths grant the digger more access to different areas deeper into site, and closer to the pools, in the north west of the the site, this allowed the ground to be flattened using the combination of the digger and a roller to form a base ready to construct the stilts that will be the hospital’s foundations. The lower path by the pools will also permit the digger to get even closer to the pools in order to dredge them, and restructure the edges.

We can just begin to visualise what the ‘new jungle’ will look like and Lee says he can imagine our elephants drinking, bathing and splashing in the pond area. Can you help us finish the work?

Please try and help if you can by clicking here.

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

Well! Thanks to the amazing work of our local Thai team, over 100 rubber trees were removed in three weeks with a workforce of only three. Jake has now had to get the digger in before the rains start in order to clear the land of remaining unwanted vegetation and other plant waste, as well as excavate out the rubber tree stumps, ready to plant our native jungle species of plants and tree. If you can help us with this work please do by clicking here.

 

 

One of the first areas to be fully cleared was what will become our visitor’s parking area, with the workers using the cleared area to create their own parking and relaxing area!

To thoroughly clear the land, the work took just over two weeks, a bit longer than we planned due to a small delay with needing to change the digger company to ensure the highest quality of work. In turn, using the digger also ensured that the soil was in the correct condition for the next stage, planting the turf, as the land was cultivated and churned by the digger removing the stumps and roots. 

The digger created piles of the unwanted vegetation and other plant debris, such as fallen branches and decaying rubber and palm leaves. All that is left to do is remove these piles using some form of waste removal, but they needed to dry out before this could be done. In the meantime, the plant waste has attracted a vast array of wildlife, providing an area to nest, including various different species of snake like this wonderful green snake found curled up in the branches of a tree – generally thought to be harmless to humans.

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