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The rains brought their challenges, but also brought beauty. The grasses are growing and the trees that we planted earlier in the year are beginning to take root. Of particular joy is the way that the lotus has flourished. Under the guidance of P’Jinda we planted pink and white lotus plants in the ponds at Ban Ton Sae to enhance the environment making it a very Thai experience.

The lotus (bua in Thai) is important in the everyday life of the Thai people and is the traditional flower of Buddhism. Legend has it that when the Lord Buddha took his first steps, lotus blooms opened up to cushion the soles of his feet. With its roots in the mud, the plant rises above the dirty water to yield a flower of perfect beauty and purity. Indeed, for Buddhists, the flower stands for pureness of spirit and the flowers are widely used as offerings at shrines, in spirit houses and in the temple.

However, the lotus has many other uses. The roots, petals and stamens of some varieties are used by herbalists to treat a variety of complaints from fainting attacks to acne, and from the lowering of blood cholesterol to stomach upsets.  In fact, most of the lotus plant is edible. Some people will eat the raw seeds, others might boil up the dried seeds in syrup as a popular drink; moreover, the roots can be mixed with pork to make a delicious soup, and the leaves and stems of some species can be used in salads. The leaves are also used to wrap steamed rice, giving it a mild lotus fragrance; when fresh, the lotus leaves are useful as (biodegradable) wrappers. In the old days, dried lotus petals were used to roll cigarettes.

The lotus is undeniably beautiful and adds charm to the surroundings. We want the lotus to be visible part of our Thai world at Ban Ton Sae, where the Thai culture must never be forgotten.

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….

Southern Thailand Elephant Foundation (STEF) is delighted to announce the appointment as the charity’s Technical Advisor, of Lee Sambrook, one of the world’s leading elephant authorities.

Lee SambrookLee is very well known throughout the elephant world and has a lifetime’s experience working with elephants and other large mammals. He worked in two zoos before starting work at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) in the early 1980s. After seven years working with the elephants at London Zoo, he moved to Western Australia as Head Elephant Trainer at Perth Zoo, where he spent five years before returning to the UK as Team leader of Elephants at Whipsnade Zoo, where he had 11 Asian elephants under his care. He is particularly proud that ten elephant calves were born during his 21 years at ZSL. He is or has been a consultant for several zoos around the world.

Chairman of Trustees, Dr Andrew Higgins, said: “I have been fortunate to know Lee for several years and I am delighted that the Trustees have decided to appoint him as Technical Adviser. Lee’s advice, guidance and a lifetime’s experience will ensure all of our projects are undertaken with the best interests of the elephant in mind”.

Already Lee has spent several weeks at the new Ban Ton Sae site (pictured here with Jakrapob Thaotad, STEF Trustee and Project Manager) working hard to ensure the ground is cleared and prepared for the housing of elephants that are in need of care and retirement.