The rescue of Wassana (Fortune) was full of dramatic twists and turns and emotional ups and downs. BLES founders Katherine and Anon discovered Wassana by pure accident when following up on a call about a baby elephant living in unacceptable conditions.
They took a wrong turn and there she was… limping due to an old land mine injury which had blown away half of her foot and crying from the pain being inflicted on her by the mahout’s unhealthy obsession with his huge hook. Blood dripped down her face and there were numerous stab marks puncturing her forehead.
Katherine and Anon enquired about the beautiful, yet beaten up elephant and were told the following. “She’s a good worker. We use her as a trekking elephant during the high season and then when times are slow, we use her to log in the forest”. Katherine and Anon didn’t even have to discuss it amongst themselves. They both knew this cruelty had to end and they had to act immediately. And so, the negotiations began.
Katherine voiced the plight of Wassana on the social network, Facebook, and thousands of faithful supporters did whatever they could to help. Thoughtful contributions were made and a community of strangers were bought together out of their need to help save Wassana.
The funds to stop Wassana’s suffering were successfully raised within just a few weeks. Elated, Katherine and Anon took the money to the owners of Wassana. Nobody could have prepared them for what they were to discover. Once the owners finally plucked up the courage to talk to Katherine and Anon face to face, they admitted to selling Wassana to someone else for more money. Clearly, there was no limit to their incessant greed.
Crushed and completely devastated, Katherine and Anon didn’t know what to do. They knew a man from Pai, a province north of Chiang Mai had bought her to work in his camp, but that was all the information they had. They didn’t know what to do.
Katherine turned to her friends on Facebook whose messages of unshakable faith gave her the strength to carry on. More funds were needed and kind-hearted supporters once again made generous offerings to save Wassana.
A BLES supporter, Louise Rogerson, knew about the predicament and kindly volunteered to track down Wassana. Alone, armed with nothing but a few photos of the elephant, she embarked on the long journey north. It didn’t take Louise long to find Wassana and take undercover photos and video. The footage showed a depressed and lonely elephant, working hard.
When Katherine was sure they had enough funds to secure Wassana’s future, they travelled up to Pai to talk to the new owner. He agreed to sell and money was handed over. Everything seemed to be going to plan until Anon went to the district office to organize the paperwork needed to transport an elephant. The only official who had the authority to sign the papers was on leave. Anon was told to return Monday morning…
Upon their return to BLES, Katherine realised the following Monday and Tuesday were public holidays and the district office would be closed. It felt like the world was conspiring against them and trying to prevent them from bringing Wassana home to BLES.
It was then decided that “Wassana Wednesday” was the day it was going to happen. Katherine and Anon rose early and made offerings to the Buddhas and Lord Ganesha to ask them to bring good luck for the journey ahead.
Anon left and less than 24 hours later returned, riding in the back of the truck with a very tired and confused Wassana. The journey back had taken them nine hours. It had poured down with rain for most of it, but none of that mattered anymore. Wassana was home.
Wassana greeted Katherine with a long stare. She lowered her head, lifted her maimed foot and rubbed it gently with her trunk. Katherine knew what Wassana was trying to tell her. Katherine stroked Wassana’s cheek and whispered into her ear, “Don’t worry my Darling. There is no work for you here. Just food, friends, and freedom."
Katherine and Anon would like to thank every single individual who worked tirelessly to save Wassana. This rescue was a global team effort and proves what can be achieved when like-minded people unite.
Wassana grows more delightful with each passing day. She is a member of the famous Gossip Girls and has been instrumental in urging Pang Dow to come out of her shell, as she was so nervous and shy before becoming best friends with Wassana.
Wassana has a large hole in her foot caused by stepping on a landline many years ago. She has a footbath and treatment every day to keep her foot healthy. In June 2015, she started wearing a custom made boot to further protect her foot - and she loves it! Our "boot-ilicious" amazing girl.