The Thai Elephant Conservation Center
A couple of days ago we again visited the Thai Elephant Conservation Center (TECC) which is about 30kms from Lampang. I met with Dr.Taweepoke Angkwanish, veterinarian and Khun Daeng, the head of the mahouts at the Center. We discussed the current situation of captive elephants in Thailand. We recommend the Thai Elephant Conservation Center based on their groundbreaking veterinary work in the elephant hospital, their long commitment to improving elephant welfare through initiatives such as the mobile clinics, musth control teams that have saved countless elephants from being shot and their pioneering work in elephant training which have been ongoing for decades and now includes Positive Reinforcement Target Training techniques. They also support Thailand’s only two true sanctuaries – the Elephant Reintroduction Programme and Pang La (which they also fund) – in areas of forest to which tourists cannot access. We also choose to frequent them because of commitment to finding sustainable methods to keep all of Thailand’s 3,471 captive elephants continue to be fed and their own ability to give their elephants a forest environment in which to thrive between such times. We acknowledge they do not sugar coat these activities that allow elephants and mahouts to display their traditional skills, dexterity and relationship but our investigations into other camps that work with similar numbers of elephants but do sugar coat find they are often causing more harm than good to the elephants under their control and no operation does more than the Thai Elephant Conservation Center to help, free of charge, all of Thailand’s elephants.
A good example of that recently took place at the hospital of the Thai Elephant Conservation Center. In a joint effort with the next-door hospital of the Friends of the Asian Elephant Foundation staff and volunteers saved the life of Plai Boonpak, an elephant owned by a Karen tribal couple who work at Patara Elephant Farm. This elephant had difficulty eating and drinking. It appeared that something was stuck between his throat and stomach. He was transferred to the hospital of TECC. A team of elephant vets, horse vets, zoo and wildlife vets worked together with engineers and technicians using cabled tools with ‘eyes’ aka an endoscope camera to try to take the object out. The object turned out to be a “food ball’ or “fiber ball”. The treatment included total anesthesia using drugs to make him sleep for at least 1-2 hours at each session. We ended up anesthetizing him four times and one standing sedation during the course of 20 days. More than 70 people were involved in helping to save the life of this elephant. Dr. Taweepoke told me that most elephants with this condition have died in the past.On October 5 during the 5th anesthesia session they succeeded in removing the food ball from the throat of the elephant. Plai Boon Phak is still at the TECC under observation and is recovering from his ordeal. He is doing very well. It was a joy to see him taken well care of by the staff of the hospital. We congratulate everyone involved in this remarkable effort. Well done!