Lom (Umbrella in Thai) is the life and soul of theBLES family. Since her arrival at BLES in July 2006, she has enchanted everyone with her bouncy, bubbly, and boisterous ways. Lom’s early life began on the streets of Chiang Mai, used for begging to the tourist trade. The evidence of her struggles from that time are still evident. Scars remain from endless hours of being dragged through the streets by her ears and legs and being shot from behind with an air gun.
Katherine and Anon discovered Lom while searching for another baby elephant that they’d been notified of by the local police. Life on the streets for this particular calf was caustic. By the time Katherine and Anon found him, he was already dead. However, the search led them to find two other babies working on the streets. The calves were skinny, filthy, and visibly distressed with sugar cane piled on their backs for tourists to purchase and feed to them. If sales aren’t made, these elephants simply don’t eat. Disoriented and undernourished, there was no question that both calves were in a critical state. Katherine e-mailed pictures with details to everyone she knew and requested advice from fellow elephant-welfare organizations. Persuaded by the condition of both babies, an international spectrum of sympathizers donated funds, but not quickly enough. Although Anon and the owners had established an agreed-upon price, when cash was not in-hand, the owners disappeared with the calves.
Desperate to locate them, Anon set up teams of people to scout major cities to find the elephants. When a credible sighting was reported, Anon drove the four hours to Chiang Mai only to find a different calf. By the time he returned to the Sanctuary, another report had come in and Anon immediately returned to Chaing Mai. Luckily, the new sighting involved the two calves originally sought. The funds collected were drastically short, so The Elephants’ Umbrella Fund offered the outstanding amount. Unfortunately, that amount was only enough to save one calf. As Lom was the smaller, younger, and more distressed of the two, with painful deliberation, she was chosen for the Sanctuary. Survival of the remaining calf has never been confirmed.
Lom’s adjustment to BLES was slow and strenuous for both the humans and elephants. Due to her life on the streets, she lacked basic survival skills. Not only was she unable to select which grasses to eat, she had no experience eating grass and instead grabbed for trash and plastic bags. In response to the abuse she suffered, she exhibited panic, unpredictable reactions, and repelled from touch. Running water and loud noises terrified her. When released to graze with the other elephants, she’d run in fear. Lom’s gradual transformation to a fully socialized member of the herd is a credit to the talent of the mahouts and the guidance she received from Pang Tong. Lom became the calf that Pang Tong lost; Pang Tong became the mother that Lom had never known. To this day, they are inseparable and continue to thrive in the comfort of each other’s companionship.