Happy New Year from The BEES Team!
As 2015 comes to a close, we would like to take a moment to look back on what a year it has been here at BEES!
We started off the year ready for whatever 2015 may hold, we are always ready to work through the obstacles and overcome challenges no matter how hard they may be, even if they are mentally and emotionally draining, we always find a way back on track. This year the challenges were tough and times were hard. In 2015 New Year we had no idea of the twists and turns that 2015 had in store for us. He is a look into our 2015 at BEES.
During 2014 some of our followers will remember it was a huge year with 4 new arrivals to our Sanctuary, 2 were a mother and her calf Kham Mee and Boon, who were joining the program temporarily to receive treatment, rest and care after the calf had severely damaged his eye on a sharp piece of bamboo. The other 2 were the Beautiful Golden Girls Thong Dee and Boon Yuen, who joined the retirement program under a 2 year contract. When they both joined BEES they were very frail, their teeth very worn and digestive systems very damaged.
In early January it was very cold and the newest arrivals the Golden Girls – Thong Dee and Boon Yuen were both very poorly and needed some help to get through the cold wintery nights, one of our incredible supporters Karyn Steele who has since become the Treasurer of BEES Animal Foundation Australia (our Australian Team) quickly gathered together a number of materials and created 2 homemade elephant blanket jackets to take some of the wintery air chill off the backs of the Golden Girls. In January we also invited Burm’s Abbott teacher from Chiang Mai to see the land in which our villagers wished to Build the temple here in Mae Tan, as soon as the Abbott heard of the interest to build the temple he blessed the land and told the spirits he would contact his sponsors from the Bangkok Buddhist society and find the funds needed to start building in March. At the end of January Mother and Calf Kham Mee and Boon on the treatment, rest and care program had to be taken in an emergency to the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre Hospital after dear little Boon was showing signs of potential EEHV – Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpes Virus which is a fatal hemorrhagic disease. Thankfully little Boon responded well to treatment and it was found that he had likely had an allergic reaction to a plant or insect in which carried toxins and made him very ill, Thank fully it was not the EEHV Virus. He was unable to eat or drink for nearly 3 days and had temperatures and a very severe tongue swelling. Thank fully due to the quick thinking and very well experienced Veterinarians at the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre Hospital they were able to save Boon’s life.
At the beginning of February During Kham Mee and Boon’s stay at the hospital another worrying event was unfolding at BEES, one of the newest arrivals Boon Yuen had collapsed and had a intestinal impaction. She stopped eating and drinking. We called her loving owner Poor Tawee and he immediately got on a bus from his new home town where he was caring for his elderly mother and came to be by Boon Yuen’s side to help us get her through these trying times and save her life. On the 10th of February after 72 hours of round the clock care, enemas and trying to get her to eat enough banana’s and watermelons to give her strength we were able to help Boon Yuen safely remove the impaction which was blocking up her intestines and causing her severe pain and discomfort. It weighed in at 9.5kg and her owner was so relieved he stayed one more night to make sure she was well again before returning to his elderly mother that needed him by her side after recently losing her husband and had no one to care for her but Poor Tawee. It took about a week for Boon Yuen to be strong again and she went back to her normal cheeky self, trying to steal pumpkins from the pumpkin room with her friend Thong Dee.
In March Thong Dee gave us a scare when she went off her food and stopped drinking water on the 18th and it took 3 days before she was able to pass a intestinal impaction that was causing her terrible discomfort. On the 20th March Thong Dee was able to pass an 11kg dung. March also was the month we began the building of the Mae Tan Temple with our community and volunteers. Thanks to the help of Burm’s Abbott Teacher and the sponsors from the Bangkok Buddhist society we could finally begin building the long awaited Temple. March was also a month of fighting off many forest fires that threatened the project and our surrounding villager’s farms.
In April we were busily working away on completing the elephant medical shelter in which we began building in October 2014 and finding foraging sites for the elephants after the fires took out most of the elephant’s food sources. In April Mae Jumpee the eldest Elephant in the Retirement Program at BEES returned home to her village for the ‘Muut Muur Suu Kwaam’ which is for the owners to give thanks to the elephants. Mae Jumpee returned to her village for 7 days for the ceremony where she was blessed by the family, they fed her favourite foods over the balcony of the family’s home and spent time chained in the forest between blessing ceremonies, close by to her family. Mae Jumpee was greatly missed by her best friend Mae Kam. Mae Kam was so happy to see her on her return to BEES. Many people ask WHY we ‘allowed’ or ‘let’ Mae Jumpee go, the answer is that we do not own Mae Jumpee we provide the owners with an alternative income and in return Mae Jumpee is allowed to stay at BEES under contract, this contract is resigned every year. If we did not allow Mae Jumpee to go, they could take her away from us for not respecting their culture, sometimes we have to make compromise in order to achieve what is best for the individual elephant so that they can continue to stay in sanctuary. In mid-April we received a touching message from the family members of Burm’s friend Robsy Christiansen who passed away suddenly a few years ago, who told us of Robsy’s wishes. Robsy had written in her Will that she wanted a donation to be made to BEES Elephant Sanctuary in her name. That donation was an incredible 20,000AUD! We were and still are blown away by this incredible act of kindness and made a promise to Robsy’s family that we would use these finds to establish our Thai Foundation and buy more land to help many more elephants.
In May we took a picture of Robsy to Burm’s Buddhist school a place that he had promised he would take Robsy only a few weeks before her passing. Robsy’s spirit was blessed by the head monk at the school and a message of great thanks was passed to Robsy from all of us. We will be forever grateful for Robsy’skind donation and will be able to do so much more for the elephants. On the 22nd May we started up a fundraiser to secure Mae Kam’s freedom. Back in April Mae Kam’s owner came to BEES and requested to take Mae Kam home for the same ceremony Mae Jumpee returned home for. Again, as explained above sometimes we have to make compromise in order to do what is best for the elephants, which is for the elephants to be allowed to come back to BEES. Mae Kam’s owner decided to walk Mae Kam back to his village, he strapped the basket on Mae Kam about 2 hours down the road from BEES, and we had requested he not put the basket on her as she had not worn the trekking basket for 3 years. As soon as he asked her to walk with the basket on she shook him violently off her back- something Mae Kam is known very well for in her previous life in the camps, shacking tourist from her back- we don’t believe the owner ever thought Mae Kam would do this to him, he has always loved Mae Kam. When he fell, he hit his back on the trekking basket breaking vertebrae in his spine and landed face first and splitting his face open and causing serious injury to his eye and head. His son came racing back to BEES on the motorbike to find us to help him get his father to the hospital, the owner Panuu was then transferred to 3 different hospitals to get the care he needed and spent over a week in hospital and many weeks in recovery. Mae Kam’s mahout went to check her and immediately removed the basket and she has not left BEES ever since. Mae Kam’s owner was very angry at Mae Kam for hurting him and decided that it would be best to sell her as he no longer wanted to keep elephants anymore and felt it was a bad omen for their family, the Save Mae Kam Campaign was established to ensure that she was not sold onto a trekking camp and stayed at BEES!
On the 1st June Mae Kam celebrated 3 years of happy retirement at BEES! And on the 3rd June an AMAZING thing happened, in just 13 days the funds to SAVE MAE KAM were raised!!!!! June was a bitter sweet month, we saved Mae Kam and exchanged the funds on the 17th June, but during all the excitement something terrible happened and was completely out of our control! Kham Mee and Boon’s owner had not spoken to us for many weeks, after he had asked us if he could breed Kham Mee at BEES, we advised him that we would NOT be doing anything of the sort and that he should wait as Kham Mee was still feeding her 1 year old calf Boon who had such a traumatic year already. We always knew that Kham Mee and Boon came to BEES under a short-term rest and care contract and was not permanent! On the 13th June Kham Mee and Boon’s owners ripped Kham Mee and Boon from BEES and walked them back to tourism. We were told they were going to they were going to a ‘non-riding camp’ and that Kham Mee was going for breeding. We have tried to make contact with the ‘non-riding camp’ and rang the owner but no one wanted to update us or answer emails. Although heartbroken at the events and the lack of care or respect for the efforts in which BEES went to, to ensure that Kham Mee and Boon received the care they needed, we MUST continue to educate and raise awareness for the plight of the Asian Elephants and bring an end to cruelty.
In July the building of the temple continued rapidly and we went with our volunteers to help. On the 18th July they had the opening ceremony. A three day ritual and chanting, it was a truly amazing sight and the end result, a beautiful place where all the villagers of Mae Tan can pay respect whenever they wish, to their beloved Buddha. It’s hard to find the words to say how July ended though, because with the end of July came the end of a life of a very much loved elephant. On the 27th July Boon Yuen took a turn, already with a weak immune system and poor digestion Boon Yuen was stung by a wasp while out on a short forest walk the day before. She went off her food and water, she become very tired and weak. Our Team pulled together all her favorite fruits packed with vitamins and medicine to help her get strong again. By the 28th she was already improving and on the morning of the 29th she was looking incredible, she was walking strong, grazing gracefully in the fields and many of the volunteers commented on how well she looked after the previous two days. We had been working around the Medical shelter and around 12.30 headed back to the dining room hut for lunch and saw Boon Yuen had moved up the mountain a little way and was grazing in thick green grass. We had just finished eating lunch when Suvanaan our mahouts wife came running over yelling Boon Yuen is laying down. We were in complete shock become less than an hour before we had seen her looking so wonderful. We ran to her and tried to get her to stand, she took a second fall as she couldn’t hold her weight any longer and died in the afternoon on the 29th July in her sanctuary after 7 months of freedom, surrounded by many that loved her. We miss her every single day and not a day goes by we don’t think about her, she left behind her poorly friend Thong Dee who has not been the same since.
In August we celebrated Mae Jumpee’s 3 years retirement at BEES on the 16th August. But just before we received devastating news less than two weeks after losing Boon Yuen we received a message we had hoped we would never receive, Peter Olliver our dear friend, our supporter and very much loved husband of our Australian Foundation Treasurer Karyn Steele had lost his battle to Cancer. Karyn and Peter have always helped BEES in so many ways since finding out about us, we cannot put into words how much we appreciate their ongoing support. They have been there for us in every hour of need and have sourced some incredible donations for BEES over the years. Losing Peter was like losing a member of our family and we will forever be grateful to Peter for his love and support. In memory of Peter we have used the logo he designed for our newly established Thai Foundation so that Peter’s legacy can live on through BEES for years to come and he can continue with us on this journey in improving elephant welfare and making a positive difference here in Thailand. We miss you every day Peter aka Yellow! See you again someday mate and take care of Boon Yuen for us! We placed candles and yellow flowers on Boon Yuen’s grave and said a special prayer for Peter. August was also the month we started fundraising for Thong Dee, the friend that Boon Yuen left behind. The owner of the Golden Girls decided Thong Dee should never leave BEES and he really needed some help getting his organic lemon and lime farm off the ground. It was decided that we would buy Thong Dee to support Poor Tawee their owner in his mission to create an organic lemon and lime farm. He was so devastated when Boon Yuen died and knew that he needed to work on the farm and leave his last remaining elephant to live in Sanctuary.
September was a month of continued fundraising for Thong Dee and trying to keep Thong Dee healthy. After losing Boon Yuen Thong Dee was quiet, she didn’t graze well and didn’t want to go on forest walks. Slowly she starting eating good amounts again and drinking water, but she has not been the same ever since losing Boon Yuen. She still struggles.
In October things started to quieten down and we worked around the project repairing fences, pampering the elephants and built a brand new spirit house, this time much bigger so that it could also bless the elephant’s spirits also. After Boon Yuen died Burm’s Abbott said that we need a bigger spirit house to protect us, all the staff, the elephants, the animals and the surrounding village people. The spirit house came together very quickly and we now make offerings every day to Ganesha who is placed inside the spirit house.
In November it was a month of articles, posts and preparation for our fundraiser in Brisbane Australia. It was also the month that we raised all the funds for our darling Thong Dee to be permanently retired at BEES and Poor Tawee her owner now has the funds to build his organic lemon and lime farm. Thong Dee enjoyed her 1 year retirement day at BEES on the 22nd of November which we now call her freedom day as Thong Dee is forever a BEES elephant! On the 21st November we had the Brisbane Fundraiser and announced our new project No-More-Chains at BEES, we launched the campaign via Just Giving on the eve of the 21st November. We have raised just over 300AUD on Just Giving and raised around 9000AUD in cash on the eve of the fundraiser. It was a great success but we still have over 50,000AUD to go! Please donate towards the no-more-chains campaign for BEES on Just Giving.
December has been go go go, we went out on a research trip to the elephant camps in the North and announced our newly established Thai Foundation, but most of it was spent preparing for the biggest Christmas to date! Apart from preparing for Christmas it has been a month of cold nights and hot days. Our poorly old girl Thong Dee has been struggling and especially feeling the cold and thankfully this year all our eles have incredible durable, warm and cozy elephant coats made by Diana at The Goat Coat shop and that were fundraised for by Friends of Lucy in Canada. A huge thanks to everyone that donated in order to keep our eles warm this winter. On the 26th December we celebrated Christmas with our amazing community that surrounds BEES. We had great prizes this year for the kids and every person in the village got to take something home. It was lots of fun and there was smiles all around. Thank you to all the volunteers and people abroad who have donated to make this years Christmas as amazing as it was. The last few days have been very hot during the day and very cold at night it has really been shaking our darling Thong Dee around, we have started Thong Dee on vitamin injections to give her a boost.
We didn’t mention about our BEARS animal rescue project in this blog as the blog would surely become 100 pages long ;), all the rescued animals at BEARS are doing well, we have had a few sad losses this year and many sad cases and we will continue to do what we can for the cats, dogs and wildlife in our region. 2016 holds many more sterilizations, treatments and preventative medicine programs and likely more rescues. Bring on 2016, BEARS is ready!
Well friends, it’s the 31st of December and the last day of 2015. As you have just read if your new to BEES, so much has happened, so much has been achieved and there has been a lot of good times and a lot of hard times.
Together standing united as a force for positive change we CAN achieve great things.
We thank each and every one of you for following our work and being believers in BEES.
Let’s continue to work towards a brighter future together through 2016!
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!!!!! Speak to you again in 2016!!!!!
With lots of ele love,
The BEES Team xxx