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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

 

 

 

 

 

Elephants are the most well-known animal in the animal kingdom and, like horses, have been used by humans for thousands of years. As long as elephants have been cared for by humans, their health care has been of great importance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sanskrit literature is rich in systematic studies in elephantology and the first known treatise on elephant health was written over 2000 years ago. One of the most famous veterinary books was written in 1910 by Lieut.-Colonel G. H. Evans, Superintendent of the Civil Veterinary Department, Burma.

Today there are some very good and experienced elephant veterinarians in Thailand and around the world, but they are few and far between. Thailand has am number of dedicated elephant veterinary hospitals but there is only one in the South located between Krabi and Trang and about 100 miles from our Ban Ton Sae site. It is good to know this centre exists but in an emergency it would be wonderful to have a clinic nearer to hand.

As part of our plans for Ban Ton Sae we plan an elephant health centre, not only to help our elephants, but also to serve the community for many miles around. It will be the only one of its kind in the area that specialises in the health and well being of the Asian elephant. This  building is therefore one of the most important to be built at the Ban Ton Sae site.

So far, we have been able to clear the ground and level it ready for the foundations to be laid. We will make progress as and when we have the funds to move to the next step.

The clinic will have all that is needed for the loading and unloading of elephants, their treatment and sedation, as well as recovery and isolation units.  A full time elephant veterinarian and vet nurses will be employed to ensure the best quality of care.

As an education centre, we will provide mahouts with basic basic care training and will welcome veterinary students as part of their extramural studies.

We will be launching an appeal for the veterinary centre soon and will need your help to reach our targets.

Please consider showing you support NOW through a donation by clicking here to help us through the design and planning stages for this important centre.

STEF’s Mission is to promote “the ethical treatment, and high health and welfare standards for the Asian elephant in Thailand” but also “to raise awareness of the elephant, and its welfare needs, through education and to encourage human-elephant interaction.”

 

Education is the corner-stone to all good animal welfare.

In our new facility, we will have elephants of course but we will also be there to educate – not only visitors but also Thais – especially children, people with special needs and all who want to learn more about the Asian elephant and its importance in Thai culture.

Our plan is to start with a small Education Centre at the Ban Ton Sae site. We need to raise the money for this of course, but so far we have been able to make a small start and level the ground ready for foundations to be laid

The Education Centre will include a variety of educational materials for all to enjoy and learn about elephants. One of the features will be a real Asian elephant skeleton, revealing the inner workings and amazing skeletal structure of this magnificent animal, and to demonstrate how they are perfectly adapted to life in the jungles of Thailand. We will also have models to explain the history of Thailand’s elephant populations as well as information boards and teaching aids, alongside our own guides.

Threats to wild elephants and conservation efforts surrounding the worlds largest land mammal will also feature in the education centre, along with ideas focusing on what we can ALL do wherever we are to help protect the elephant and its native habitat.

We truly want the STEF Education Centre  to be enjoyed by anyone visiting the site and to be an education hub for local schools and for students studying animal care, welfare, conservation and the veterinary sciences. Professional or aspiring vets, vet nurses and mahouts will always be welcome.

To thank all of our donors, we will include a board of plaques commemorating everyone who contributes to the building and running of STEF to give the elephants of Thailand a place to call home.

If you would like to support STEF please click here to donate whatever you can, large or small. We value every baht.

 

 

From using solar panels to create clean renewable energy to using recycled rainwater to create our elephant pools, sustainability on the Ban Ton Sae site is one of the ways STEF will become a sustainable environmentally friendly haven for our elephants and guests to enjoy.

One of the ways STEF will ensure sustainability is to grow the food for the elephants on site. An area of land has already been sculpted for this purpose and as you can see from the picture (left), levels have been carved into the earth to create giant steps where rows of crops can grow and be rotated.

Deforestation is the biggest threat to the Asian elephant in the wild. Plantations for crops such as rubber and palm oil (products used widely in western countries) are one of the causes for the destruction of  elephant habitats. We have cleared all rubber trees from our site and by growing our own food for the elephants we can ensure this land is reused sustainably and no areas of primary forest are cut down to provide the crops.

We plan to grow bamboo and Napier grass (also known as elephant grass) to feed them on site but the elephants will also be taken into the forest to forage for themselves. Elephants need a range of foods to meet their dietary requirements and foraging encourages natural behaviours.

Why bamboo? Well bamboo (right) is classified as a grass, is extremely strong (big species are often seen being used as scaffolding on construction sites), and it is said to be the fastest growing plant on earth (some species grow up to 0.5m per day). It is sometimes called a ‘pioneer species’, as it creates humus-rich soils and so is of great value in forest habitats. Elephants are very fond of bamboo shoots, seedlings and leaves.

Elephant grass (above left) is a perennial forage crop that also has a fast growth rate, high productivity and has good nutritive value. It is a very good grass for cut and carry systems – and elephants, who do not just eat what is available, but actively choose what to eat, love it as you can see.

If you would like to help us feed our elephants and support sustainable reforestation you can sponsor a tree or area of grazing turf on our website by just clicking here.

 

 

 

The rainy season in Thailand varies from region to region and  lasts from May to October. So we are only at the beginning now, but the short, sharp very heavy downpours do limit the construction and infrastructure work that we can do on our jungle site at Ban Ton Sae.  The intensity of the rain is notching up day-by-day as we head into the full swing of Southern Thailand’s monsoon months. Dark clouds appear with a strong warm wind, then a few heavy drops of rain warn you that you have only a few minutes to find cover before the skies open and rain belts down. You may be trapped in your shelter for 20-30 minutes but then the rain stops as suddenly as it started, the clouds disappear and the sun comes out. 

But the sheer volume of water that falls means that the tracks get muddy and waterlogged. Building works require dry conditions for laying foundations and work on the future education and visitor centres, as well as the elephant hospital will have to wait until later in the year.

The sheer magnitude of the rain can sometimes cause a minor flash flood on the site and we must always be mindful of this although the extensive site drainage that we installed earlier in the year should mitigate the risk. Flooding would threaten our newly planted grasses and could also affect the wonderful forest trees we have planted with your generous help,  so Jake is keeping a very close eye on things.

None of this affects elephants whose love of water also really does extend to the rains! Every water drop gives the elephant a cooling break from the relentless humid heat of Thailand’s tropical climate. As shown in the photos, elephants aren’t fazed at all by the monsoon rain, and embrace it with all its force. We can’t wait for STEF’s future elephants to be resting in the Park, enjoying the monsoon season.

However, there is silver lining behind all this rain as it has given us the opportunity to re-focus our attention on sharing STEF’s message of the need to help conserve the Asian elephant, and our STEF fundraising program. If you can help us, please sponsor one of trees at the Ban Ton Sae site to help us get the ecologically sensitive park that we need for the elephants. Just click here to sponsor a tree now!

The newly acquired 16 rai (6.5 acre) site at Ban Ton Sae was previously used as a rubber tree plantation, but it also has palms that are harvested for palm oil as well as natural durian and other fruit trees. There are three large man-made ponds at the site, which were used for irrigation and form a lovely feature of the surroundings. The site has challenging sloped land and quite undulating surfaces. There are only three areas on the site where the ground can be described as flat, which makes the planning process very interesting as we have to be creative with our ideas for the new terrain.

The planning for the site’s development is well underway and the start of the conversion process of the land has enabled it to become a suitable haven for elephants. People from the local community are being employed to cut down the rubber trees and remove them from the site. The timber will be sold to generate funds to help pay for the conversion of the land to a more ecofriendly system that will include planting the most appropriate flora for elephants to enjoy in a natural environment.

Here you can see photos of the new site just as we started to cut down the rubber trees in February 2018 – this is the first stage of recreating a perfect and ecofriendly environment for our future family of elephants. To help us, please click here.