It took months of planning, hours of driving, negotiation delays with owners and government officials, and plenty of fundraising to bring Boon Thong home to BLES.
We’d been alerted to the plight of three elephants being used for trekking who were in poor health and miserable circumstances. We drove the many hours to Pattaya and found two of the three reported elephants. One was never to be found. Boon Sri (Majesty), at 65 years of age, was crippled in pain with a swollen ankle and visible scars from abuse by her handlers. Boon Thong (Merit) is blind in one eye, her ears are ripped, her back is deformed, and her head is misshapen. Scars cover her thin, boney body and she is constipated. She has a swelling on her elbow and her toenails are brittle, cracked and overgrown and her tail hair is missing.
The elephants had been kept in deplorable conditions spending their evenings standing among mountains of dung and trash so deep that they would not lie down to sleep. Their days were spent ferrying clueless tourists on a continual rotation with heavy passengers and poorly fitting seats. Evenings were spent chained to the same spot and swaying in place to relieve their chronic joint pain and endless boredom
We knew we had to try to save both ladies but this was not meant to be. For a number of reasons, we were only allowed to purchase Boon Thong. We were devastated to have to leave Boon Sri behind but the person trying to sell her was not her owner and did not have her paperwork. Once Boon Thong’s paperwork was finalized and funds delivered, we returned with a truck for her transport and it was clear that she had been waiting patiently for us. She climbed into the truck with ease and seemed to be looking forward to whatever was coming next.
After a 10-hour drive, we arrived at BLES. Boon Thong climbed down from the truck and headed straight for the pile of corn that had been waiting to greet her arrival. From the brightness in her eyes, we could tell that she knew she was finally free to explore, meet the new herd, sample a banana tree and after 6 decades of abuse and deprivation, she could begin a new life as a real elephant, a free elephant .
Some elephants are able to put their past behind them fairly quickly, others need more time. Boon Thong has needed the peace and space given to her at BLES . She has worked through her trauma at her own pace and today, she is sociable and carefree. Her transformation is remarkable and truly humbling.
This film is her first year of BLES freedom- from the shocking state we found her in at the camp in Pattaya, through her months of getting stronger physically and emotionally. Today, she has found peace - and it shows. She has the most beautiful soul - and we adore her xxx