Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Thai Elephant Volunteer Program Launch in 2009

June and July of 2009 saw the arrival of my first volunteer groups at the project in Surin. This was the very first time volunteers came out to help care for the elephants, plant trees and elephant food, and get to know our mahout team.

above photo: June 2009, the first tase of elephant freedom !

above photo: July 2009 Surin Volunteers bathing the elephants

We started off with 6 elephants, including baby Tunwa and his mother and auntie. The other elephants had never spent time together free and unchained, so the mahouts were obviously nervous. Thankfully all went well and it took no time at for the new elephant family to adjust to each other and settle in. The mahouts have been excellent since day 1 – allowing the elephants to interact, bringing them with us for project tasks, leaving them unchained, allowing for important social interactions to take place and reintroducing them to their natural forest habitat.

These are some photos from June and July 2009 Surin Volunteers, and some comments follow. Big thanks go out to all of the 2009 Surin Volunteers for all their hard work and support. Without all of you we would never have gotten off the ground!

photos above: June and July 2009 Surin Volunteer groups - thanks to all of you for your suppurt and hard work

Volunteer testimonials:

Helping the elephants & mahouts in Surin was an amazingly fulfilling experience. The work planting food in the fields was more than offset by the relaxing times spent bathing the elephants & cooling down with them in the huge river and watching them have fun together. I hope the sanctuary will prove to be a new way forward for the begging elephants of Thailand - I will be back! The week was professionally run by Jeff who was very hands on & inspiring to everyone.

Chris James, UK

A wonderful opportunity to help the Thai mahouts & their families earn a living, and at the same time help the elephants live in a more natural environment free from cruelty.
The highlight for me was being able to get close to these magnificent creatures, giving them a break from the cruelty of the circus shows and street begging and seeing the real difference we made. Watching and hearing the elephants bond together as a family group (they can be loud!), and the smiles on their mahouts faces was an experience not to be missed.

Guy Roberts, UK