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The Elephants - Thong Dee

Thong Dee - Aged Approximately 75 years old

Thong Dee and Boon Yuen

In November 2014 we were contacted by Poor Tawee, the owner of two beautiful ‘Golden Girls’ Thong Dee and Boon Yuen both in their 60’s and in poor health. Poor Tawee’s father passed in October 2014, leaving his elderly mother all alone with no one to care for her. Poor Tawee had spent near 30 years working by Thong Dee and Boon Yuen’s side. He fell in love with BEES and said he wished he could stay here, but he had a responsibility to care for his mum.

The Golden Girls arrived at BEES on the 22ndNovember 2014, both had very poorly digestive systems and worn teeth. We developed a supplemental diet, bought in vitamins and a purchased a food shredder, gave them a partly shredded diet to help them get the nutrients they needed. They both would have good days and bad, the bad days involved giving them enemas and oral medications to help them when they got impactions and couldn’t defecate without help. The tourism and logging industry took so much of their lives and they were both left with scars both physical and psychological.

On Wednesday 29th July 2015, as rain drops fell darling Boon Yuen closed her eyes for the last time and laid at peace surrounded by many that loved her, in her sanctuary. Boon Yuen left Thong Dee and a very heart broken Poor Tawee behind. Poor Tawee decided Thong Dee should never leave BEES. In the months to follow we did a fundraising campaign to support Poor Tawee to have a Happy retirement and give Thong Dee the permanent natural home she deserved at BEES, so she could spend the rest of her days grazing in the green grasses not too far from her beloved Boon Yuen’s resting place. Thong Dee has since tried to make friends with other elephants with no luck. She has rough days and struggles in the winter season greatly, she is very old and frail now, our team work round the clock to keep her comfortable and give her the best possible in her twilight years. Each day is a true privilege and blessing to work for her.


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Mae Kam - Aged Approximately 66 years old

Mae Kam was the first elephant to join BEES under 1 year retirement contract in May 2012. Mae Kam had started acting out, she was suffering from depression and had been shaking mahouts and tourists off her back. As a result she was badly beaten and her owner was left with no choice at the time, but to bring her home. She had been chained above her owners farm for over 18 months by the time we met her. Mae Kam had delivered a still born calf in her logging days and right before she started acting out in the camps she had lost her second calf to a King Cobra bite. We had no idea where it would lead us taking an elephant like Mae Kam on as our first elephant to join the program, but what we did know – we had to help her. We walked Mae Kam to BEES on a near 75km Journey through the windy mountains. She loved her first year and the owner seemed happy with the extra income we were providing him in return for her freedom. We managed to get the owner to resign the contract keeping Mae Kam in Sanctuary for nearly 3 years under the rental agreement. In May 2015 her owner had requested to take Mae Kam home for a blessing ceremony, the Mut murr suu kwam – To bless the elephant and bring happiness to the elephant, family and the village she was born in. Mae Kam had not left BEES for almost 3 years, spending each day foraging in the forest free from work and abuse, we really wished she didn’t have to go and tried to persuade her owner otherwise, he wanted to take her and refused to change his mind. We had requested that they do not harness her with the trekking basket, but when they got 2 hours down the road, ignoring the request, her owner decided to harness her and climbed up on her neck to ride her. She immediately shook and threw him off her back, sending him to hospital with serious head injuries and broken vertebrae. Mae Kam was immediately walked back to BEES where she would stay, never to be tormented by her past again.

In the weeks to follow the owner and the family had said that they wished to sell Mae Kam, giving us a month to find the funds otherwise they would sell her on to continue trekking. We absolutely could not allow that to happen, knowing Mae Kam would be badly beaten, because she did not want to work. The owner and the family no longer wanted to work with elephants, believing Mae Kam was a bad omen and it was time to move away from elephants.

In an amazing 13 days BEES friends from all around the world donated the funds to secure Mae Kam’s freedom. Mae Kam can forever be in her sanctuary, where she spends each day Happy, Flappy and Thriving, foraging the days away, just being an elephant.

Mae Kam @BEES 720
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Mae Dok@BEES 720

Mae Dok - Aged Approximately 65 years old

Mae Dok grew up in the village of Huay Suer Tow which is the previous work place and home of Thong Dee and Boon Yuen. Mae Dok spent much of her early years logging and helping with farming. When logging was banned in the late 1980’s, she joined 30 other elephants for tourism in the area giving rides. For about 20 years, before retiring to BEES, she was used at the Karen Long Neck touristic village as an attraction where she would beg people to feed her banana and sugarcane for 20 baht and have selfies taken. During her life time she gave birth to 2 still born calves and had 1 successful baby after the devastating still births. The baby daughter was separated from her at 1 year old and used as a tourist attraction in Chiang Mai, we really hope we can track her daughter down one day who by now would be in her 30’s. Due to diminishing space and poor economy in the area all the other elephants were sold off or those rented out from other communities were moved on to work in larger camps in Chiang Mai, leaving Mae Dok a lonesome elephant. Except for Thong Dee and Boon Yuen, whose owner was told about us after we had visited Mae Dok at the bridge the first time, about 5 years prior to her rescue and decided to retire them to BEES. We had been waiting to do the same for Mae Dok for a very long time.

For years since our first meeting with some of Mee’s children, they had expressed they wanted to sell Mae Dok, but out of respect for their elderly mother Mee who loved Mae Dok and didn’t want her to go, they waited until she passed away. They wanted to let the matriarch of their family pass in peace with her large friend nearby so she could feel at ease knowing Mae Dok was there.

We were told dear Mee, the elderly owner was around 108 Years old when she passed away in late January 2019. Mee had been Mae Dok’s owner since Mae Dok was born in the late 1950’s – early 1960’s. We were told during our meeting and signing of documents for Mae Dok’s retirement that Mee, gave birth to 15 children in her lifetime. Sadly, 6 children had since passed away. When Mee passed away she was a Mother, Grandmother and Great Grandmother, leaving 9 remaining children, most of which have adult children and grandchildren. Mae Dok was very well known in the little Karen village. Each day when Mae Dok returned from the bridge at the touristic village, she was always greeted by many happy faces, ready to give her snacks on her walk to the forest, at the edge of the village for a night of rest, before returning to the bridge to spend her days. We had an opportunity to watch her walk from the bridge, through the village and to the forest edge. It was truly touching to see how loved she was in the community.

Our dreams finally came true when Mae Dok retired to BEES on 6th of March 2019. The moment she stepped off the transportation truck, she happily explored her surroundings. Thong Dee was frightened and moved away, but Mae Kam was very interested and they instantly became best friends. Mae Dok and Mae Kam spend each day together exploring and foraging. 


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All of the elephants at BEES Elephant Sanctuary can be adopted.  Adoptions help us to provide the care that is needed to ensure the are healthy and happy.  To find out more, click on the button to the right where you can find all the details.


The Elephants