It was a pleasure to be back at BLES. The simple elegance of the sanctuary results in a brilliant function: a peaceful haven for elephant and human alike. Oh yes — the many dogs and cats find the place heavenly as well.
A feeling of maturity has permeated the sanctuary since my last visit only seven months ago. There is a calm that the mahouts, house-keeping staff, nanny and maintenance staff exude. Needless to say, the comfortable calmness is most obvious with the elephants.
Tong Yui and Bong Bing have experienced a growth spurt in my absence, both several inches taller, lankier, less calf-like. They are both growing into impressive elephants, healthy and full of promise.
Tong Yui is a bundle of energy each morning. Her enthusiasm for the new day threatens to explode, making it nearly impossible for her to get through her morning bath without a playful crash through the trees by the wash area.
I have such fond memories of Tarra at this magical age of seven, not yet fully confident but blossoming into the glorious individual she would grow to be. Full of adventurous energy, eager to explore life and her surroundings, quickly shedding the restraints of childhood. Even her face indicated that little Tong Yui is entering puberty and promises to be a magnificent elephant in her own right.
I am sure you remember baby Mee Chok, the calf who made such a powerful impact on me the last time I was in Thailand. My last day at BLES during my last visit, we searched for a calf reported to be in distress. Katherine was desperate to find and rescue him. His conditions were devastating. Even though he was corralled with an adult female, it was obvious she was not his mother and they meant nothing to each other. With identical blank stares, their eyes void of life, and identical leg shackles, they did their best to block the unbearable pain they were experiencing.
Helpless to make a difference in the life of this suffering elephant, I took a single haunting photo of Mee Chok with his head pressed against the wooden posts of his corral. The desperate look in his eyes tells it all. I posted the iconic photo on my site as a reminder of the continued suffering of elephants used for tourism in Thailand.
You would not recognize Mee Chok today. His recovery is no less than miraculous and testament to the nurturing bestowed upon him at BLES. My sincerest thanks go to Katherine, Anon, the mahouts and all the staff for making BLES such a special place. The environment of love that is BLES revives the life force energy, for elephants and people alike, that in so many cases is near extinguished.