Just six weeks after her arrival in Thailand, Katherine unexpectedly found herself volunteering in an elephant conservation centre and hospital. While establishing her formative relationship with the baby elephant, Boon Lott, she realized her life’s passion and committed herself to the rescue, recovery, and retirement of abused Asian elephants.
With fierce resolution, Katherine, along with family and friends, raised the initial funds to purchase land and establish BLES as a sanctuary that would put the needs of the elephants first and foremost, and create a change in the centuries old traditions on how elephants should be managed.
She gave her mahouts respect and credit for their knowledge, paid them a decent wage and worked with them patiently but with determination, to show them that bullhooks and chains were not neccessary.
Her unwavering efforts were internationally recognized, and she was formally invited to The House of Lords in London to receive an award from IFAW(International Fund for Animal Welfare) for her dedication and commitment to animal welfare.
Katherine has often said she will not turn her back on any abused animals. This creed is evident — in addition to elephants, BLES is home to a variety of rescued animals, including dogs, cats, tortoises, cows,wild boars and 2 monkeys.
From those working off-site to raise public awareness to those involved in day-to-day operations, the BLES team achieves the impossible. With sheer determination, the BLES team is deterring the threat of extinction — one elephant at a time- and raising world wide awareness to the plight of the captive elephants in Thailand.
At BLES, an essential member of the team is the mahout, the elephant handler. The word mahout is derived from Indian Sanskrit, meaning ‘teacher of all’, which aptly describes our mahouts at BLES. Each mahout exudes understanding, respect, and a passion to protect our elephants. However, this style of handling differs from the traditional mahout/elephant working relationship that utilizes tools and methods based on animal domination.
The elephant was historically a source of income for the mahout and his family. When not working or being controlled with the hook, the elephants would be chained. It was a challenge for our mahouts to understand that there is a more humane and gentler way handle domesticated elephants. Tradition and ingrained habit were hard to overcome- especially when they were being advised by a young, foreign woman!. The BLES approach is completely antithetical to the traditional Thai way of elephant management.
The success of this approach and how it has been taken up by many other places in Thailand who are now taking in elephants is remarkable and testimony to Katerine's unshakeble determination to create a change in the lives of the captive elephants of Thailand.
BLES brings in mahouts and owners fromThailand to teach them how to better manage their elephants. Our mahouts are passionate and proud ambassadors for this change.
We are very proud of our BLES Mahouts.
Show your appreciation of our mahouts by contributing to Mahout of the Month