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Projects in Thailand

CMU Mobile Veterinary Van

Janet Dray

The CMU Mobile Veterinary Van purchased with AES funds has been quite busy since its official inauguration this past March. Here are a few pictures of its progress in helping Asian elephants in Thailand (which, in turn, will extend to solving medical issues for elephants worldwide). Thanks to Dr. Yeaw for providing most of these photos.

You, our supporters, have made this all possible. Many thanks!

The van's official inauguration at CMU on Thai Elephant Day

The van's official inauguration at CMU on Thai Elephant Day

Being blessed by a Buddhist monk

Being blessed by a Buddhist monk

Examining and prescribing treatment at a remote camp

Examining and prescribing treatment at a remote camp

Collecting research data

Collecting research data

Myanmar Vets' to Thailand

Chris Rico


Asian Elephant Health and Breeding Management Course in Thailand: Report for Asian Elephant Support

In the online part of the course (22 April to 24 May 2019), we learned about anatomy, physiology, nutrition, endocrinology, ultrasonography, anesthesia, restraint, and breeding and parturition management of Asian elephants.

In June we participated in a 5-day practical course in northern Thailand. The first day (10 June) we had lectures on health care management, endotheliotropic herpes virus, nutrition, plasma transfusion and blood cross match at Chiang Mai University in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.

The next days were practical training and demonstrations at the National Elephant Institute in Lampang, and Elephant Rehabilitation center, Pang Lah. On 11 June we had presentations on common health problems, tuberculosis, nutrition, and case studies in Sri Lanka and Thailand. From 12 to 14 June we studied rehabilitation, obesity, welfare, anesthesia, practiced using an elephant-like ultrasonography, semen collection, semen evaluation, estrus detection, reproductive hormone monitoring and calf management after parturition etc.

From this trip, we got the opportunity to hear a lot of elephant information and we got to share knowledge regarding elephant health care management from different regions. Therefore, your support is absolutely effective for us and for taking care of our elephants.

Finally, we would like to express our sincere thanks to Asian Elephant Support for your kind support for our trip. Without your support we could not benefit from this training.

Best regards,

Dr. Moe Win Tun
Dr. Zaw Min Htun

AES Trip to Thailand

Chris Rico


From the perspective of new board member, Janet

I had two major objectives when I joined the trip to Thailand for the mobile vet dedication on Thailand Elephant Day:

  1. To see for myself how AES funds are put to use,

  2. To learn more about Asian elephants in one of their range countries.

Let’s just say this trip delivered on these items and more. I met recipients of AES grants: camp managers, workshop participants, the wonderful elephant vets and researchers at Chang Mai University and AES partners.  Some funds are used to improve camp conditions  for some captive elephants.  It was thrilling to actually see the mobile vet van in use, with vets treating elephants at different camps and facilitating research data collection.

I traveled from Chang Mai to Chang Rai in the new mobile vet van purchased with AES funds.  If I had to choose a highlight of the trip, this was it.  I saw the countryside where the wild elephants reside, visited a number of different types of camps and watched the vets  interacting with the patients and clients. I realized firsthand how remote the camps are from elephant medical facilities and experienced that the CMU van was able to handle the rough terrain and winding roads.  We met camp managers, mahouts, veterinarians and respected experts in the study of Asian elephants and, yes, even an elephant chiropractor.

Throughout all these travels in the van and a very informative stay at Elephantstay (a great place to learn about the life of a mahout), I don’t think a day passed without seeing multiple elephants.  From meting the first Thai calf conceived through artificial insemination named AI, seeing a calf less than 2 weeks old and a cow almost ready to give birth, to treating scrapes, collecting blood draws and checking on a lame elephant  - all were part of the job of the mobile vet.  At the Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE) elephant hospital, I even had the opportunity to see an elephant being treated for an injury from a land mine. The hospital has a lab that can produce prosthesis for wounded elephants!

There were so many other discoveries on this trip.  I wish I could tell you about each and every one.  Overall, I could not be more proud of the people and work enabled through the donations made to AES.  It was gratifying to see the vet being able to treat remote elephants in the field.  The studies and recommendations of Chiang Mai University are so important to the survival of the Asian elephant in Thailand and elsewhere.

From the perspective of secretary, Vanessa Gagne

This past March I had the rare opportunity to travel to Thailand for National Thai Elephant Day and the dedication of the vehicle AES purchased for Chiang Mai University's Vet School's mobile clinic.  I most treasured my experience with the Thai people – I met so many colleagues in person and spent quality time with them.   It is through these human connections we will be able to help ensure the future of the Asian elephant.

I truly enjoyed seeing how each camp operates differently to manage their elephants.  Thailand is so rich in culture, especially elephant culture, that to miss seeing this as a part of their daily lives is to omit an integral portion of their national sense of self.  I think I set a personal record:  I saw over 140 elephants in one day during the Thai Elephant Day celebration.  It was remarkable!

Thailand has a fascinating history, and since archaeology is one of my favorite hobbies, I visited some temples and was captivated by their myths and symbols.  Many of the motifs are identical to that of the Maya.  I was able to visit the Patara Elephant Farm in Chiang Mai where I participated in their “mahout for a day” program.   The staff's educational talks to the participants were informative, demonstrating their professionalism and knowledge.  They explained the important difference between animal welfare and animal rights.

I left with a sense of peace and the hope I would return again soon.  There is so much work to be done helping people and their elephants.  I know it was the beginning of a life-long relationship with the Thai people and their “Chang Baan,” or domesticated elephants.

From the perspective of president, Linda Reifschneider

This was the first trip to Thailand for Janet and Vanessa.  I remember my first trip!   But that was 2002 and there have been 20+/- trips since then, so my perspective on this trip is a bit different.

From our visit to Richard Lair in Lampang, breaking in the new vet vehicle visiting elephant camps, our visit to Patara Elephant Farm, the vehicle dedication ceremony at Chiang Mai University through the welcoming Thai Elephant Day visits at Maesa and Maetaeng elephant camps and our visit to a Karen camp and John Roberts at the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, I experienced the ‘being with’ elephants that made me know on my first visit in 2002, it was time for me to say goodbye to a wonderful 43 -year career with Edward Jones and figure out how to be of benefit to today’s Asian elephant as well as a positive force for their future.  I’ve had a lot of help along the way, and so, I wish to use this article to say thank you to some very special friends who are the ‘boots on the ground’ in Thailand – the men and women with the education and expertise, determination and dedication, to a better today as well as the future of Asian elephants.  They are:  Richard Lair, acknowledged expert on Thai history, culture, language, and elephants; Drs. Chatchote Thitaram and Khajohnpat Boonprasert, Chiang Mai University; John Roberts, Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation; Theerapat (Pat) Trungprakan, Patara Elephant Farm and his lovely wife Anocha (Dao); Julie Ferdinand, a most helpful friend, and an expert canine exporter!  My sincere appreciation also to the newer friends and acquaintances made on this trip as they, too, are the hope of the Asian elephant and I am simply humbled to help in whatever small ways AES is able.

Both top and bottom truck pictures are courtesy of Dr. Yeaw

Both top and bottom truck pictures are courtesy of Dr. Yeaw

Wheels are on their way!

Chris Rico

The funding for the new mobile veterinarian vehicle was sent to Chiang Mai University in mid-September. While the vehicle will be put into service as soon as it is ready, the official dedication will be on March 13, 2019. This is Thai Elephant Day and an appropriate (and fun) time to be in Chiang Mai. All directors are invited and we will share pictures, including of the vehicle in service, in our April 2019 Newsletter.

THANK YOU to all who participated in the Tee-shirt campaign as well as otherwise helped raise the funds to make this wish a reality. You are awesome and we can only help people help elephants because you are the ones truly helping!

EREC Bonfire T-shirt Campaign

Chris Rico

Benefitting the EREC New Mobile Vet Unit

We are excited to announce a new way to help us purchase a mobile vet truck for Chiang Mai University Vet Department to provide care for the surrounding area's elephants.

Dr. Yeaw performing a blood draw from the ear.  Typically blood draws are performed from the ear, but they can also be done on the rear leg while the elephant is standing.

Currently they are using one vehicle for 4 veterinarians to make house calls to local elephant camps.  AES would like to provide them with a second vehicle to be shared among the vets and to make sure they have a backup in case one breaks down.  The campaign is set to run for 10 days, from July 15th - July 25th.

We'd like to sell as many t-shirts as we can so please share this campaign with everyone you know and buy a couple shirts for yourself!  This is a special, one-of-a-kind shirt only available for this fundraiser.  It features our logo and the EREC logo in white on a charcoal grey shirt.

Thank you and we will keep everyone posted on the progress via our Facebook page!

Dr. Yeaw performing an eye exam

Dr. Yeaw with a newly collected blood sample

Thailand Trip 2018

Chris Rico

Thailand is the country where Linda first landed in her quest to see Asian elephants on their home turf. Over the years, many good relationships and programs have offered the opportunity for AES to collaborate and support efforts benefiting both Asian elephants and the people who care for and about them.

Chiang Mai, one of the northern Thailand tourist destinations, is a good base on visits.  Long-time friend, Julia Ferdinand, domiciled here, is always good logistics support and the all important ‘wheels’. So, too, this trip.

Our first stop is a long drive for a brief, but very good visit, to catch up with John Roberts at The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF) base at the Anantara Resort, near the Golden Triangle.  Through GTAEF, John offers an excellent and flexible elephant experience opportunity for tourists, while also always alert for programs and efforts to help improve captive elephant care where needed, as well as responding to requests for funding for educational, rescue, and other worthwhile efforts.  AES has collaborated with GTAEF on a few occasions and looks forward to doing more together in the future.

The following day we visit the University of Chiang Mai’s Veterinary School.  Linda is fortunate to know a few of the staff from our conferences and workshops, and she knows the effort they are making toward advances in elephant health care but had never before visited.  After a very good meeting with Drs. Chatchote Thitaram and Chaleamchat Somgird, Dr. Khajohnpat Boonpraseet (“Dr. Yeaw”) takes Linda to Patara Elephant Farm. Linda visited there 10+ years ago when Patara had 4 or 5 well-cared for elephants and great sounding plans.  They almost sounded impossible! But, 2018, and Theerapat (“Pat”) Trungprekan has more than delivered on this promise.

Now 57 elephants strong, with three calves born last year and five expected births this year, Patara is helping to stabilize the Thai elephant population.  At the same time, a great tourist opportunity is offered. Staff is kind and friendly and both know and respect the animals under their care. Linda saw a comment on a tourist industry website that said, “If your trip to Thailand includes one day in Chiang Mai, spend it here.  If not, add a day and spend it here,” and thinks that is some pretty good advice!


The next day, Linda rode along as Dr. Yeaw visited several elephant camps to treat elephants; mostly he is drawing blood to examine the cycling of selected females. First stop is Maetaman Camp.  Over the years, Linda has been here many times. At present, they have 60+ elephants, some owned by camp owner, some are owned by others and brought here to work. Dr. Yeaw does 11 blood draws, all to check the cycles of these breeding-age females.  The work goes smoothly with all but one elephant waiting her turn quietly and all cooperating like real pros. The one exception squeaked when she felt the needle but otherwise was a good girl. Maybe she’s new to the program! All elephants seen were between their late teens and into their 40s.

Next, we visit Rimtan Elephant Camp, a small camp with just a few elephants and did one blood draw.


A bit farther we stopped at Elephant Carer Home: no draws, no elephants in sight.  Just a visit to ‘check in’ and be sure all is good. Then a visit to Elephant Rescue Home where we see 5 elephants: 2 adults and 3 juveniles.  Give a tetanus inoculation to one elephant and looked at an inflamed eye on another.

Last stop is Baanchang Elephant Park.  Met the woman owner to treat a female elephant who is bossy and a fighter but picked the wrong gal for her last battle, and besides lots of skinned up places, has a horribly swollen front leg Dr. Yeaw is treating.  They have 54 elephants there and the facilities are quite new, well laid out, decently designed, and look like good materials and construction. And, these elephants get preventative medicine and have veterinarians on the premise.

Richard and Linda

Richard and Linda

No visit to Chiang Mai would be complete without a day trip to Lampang to visit with Richard Lair.  An American who has been working in Thailand for more decades than we care to admit at this point, he is a true authority on not only the Asian elephant in Thailand and other Asian countries, but also the Thai history, culture, and language.  We are proud he is an AES adviser.

The last day in Chiang Mai concluded with Dr. Yeaw and Pat, owner of Patera, and Linda at dinner.  It was an excellent meeting and Linda agreed to help the newly forming Thailand Elephant Alliance (the owners of working elephants) which is being set up to both improve camps where needed and to educate the public on good elephant husbandry as well as the history and culture of Thai elephants and their owners/mahouts.  Not sure how she/AES can be of assistance, but we are eager to help where possible.

Mom and calf at Elephantstay  

Mom and calf at Elephantstay

After six days based in Chiang Mai, a last visit to Ayutthaya and the Elephantstay program at the Royal Kraal.  Linda always has a horrible time getting tuk-tuk drivers to get her to the right destination. Finally, Ewa and Michelle explain to her it’s her pronunciation – comes out not meaning anything to the driver (who evidently isn’t good at 20 Questions, but sure tries!).  It was a short visit, but a good time watching the bulls delivering fodder to the ‘elderly ladies’ in the Elephantstay program and the antics of two young calves.

Personal note from Linda:  I always return from any trip to Asia more convinced than ever that Asian Elephant Support has it right.  Concentrating our funding in Asia is without a doubt the best investment we – and our donors – can make. Lots of challenges ahead to get these magnificent animals into the next century, but if we look at ‘challenges’ as opportunities for us to put our commitment and resources toward – and with the support and encouragement of you, our donors and friends – we are confident we can be an important contributor to this effort.  Thank YOU – for helping us help elephants.

In July we will commence a campaign to provide The Center for Excellence in Elephant Research and Education a second vehicle. Stay tuned!

Update on Flooding at the Royal Kraal

Vanessa Gagne

We wanted to provide our loyal supporters with an update on the flooding in Ayuttaya, Thailand where Elephantstay is located. So many animals and people were affected (and too many died) throughout Thailand, and our friends at Elephantstay have suffered substantial flood damage.

We’ve been keeping in contact with Ewa and Michelle who live in Ayuttaya at the Royal Kraal. The flood waters had fully submerged ElephantStay and the Kraal for weeks on end. In an update on November 23rd, we learned the water had receded from inside the Kraal, but it needed to dry before anything further happened and the moms and calves were still stranded on the wall. By the 28th, the moms and calves were in the process of moving back to the Kraal and the Nursery was finally dry, but Elephantstay was not. The office was completely destroyed.

While it is an immense relief that the waters have finally begun to recede, now begins the hard part of rebuilding something that was already so functional and a part of many visitors’ memories. Of course, rebuilding will take time, patience, and a whole lot of money. So, if you’re looking for a way to help, please consider Elephantstay. They will use every penny that’s sent their way.

We would like to send a special thank you to those who have already donated money to help Elephantstay and the Kraal. Your money is being put to good use and is greatly appreciated! Thank you for your support. Together, we are helping lighten the burden this flood has put on the shoulders of the Elephantstay staff.   

Flooding at the Royal Elephant Kraal and New Birth

Chris Reifschneider

Field where the elephants used to sleep

Field where the elephants used to sleep

In 2010, the Royal Elephant Kraal in Ayutthaya suffered devastating impacts from flooding. Flooding meant evacuation for both people and elephants.

The people who live and work with the elephants moved to wherever they needed to be to provide care.The cost for recovery was high and the work to rebuild was hard.

Elephantstay team hut

Elephantstay team hut

On top of the damage from floodwaters, they had to turn away many visitors with the ElephantStay program, so it was devastating on all fronts. Asian Elephant Support collected donations to help the Kraal rebuild.

Sai Chon is blessed

Sai Chon is blessed

2011 was another devestating year.  So many animals and people were affected (and too many died) throughout Thailand, and our friends at Elephantstay suffered substantial flood damage. The flood waters fully submerged ElephantStay and the Kraal for weeks on end. AES helped again with a fundraising campaign.

In the midst of this disaster in 2010 was a reason for celebration. To the delight of many, a baby girl named Sai Chon was born to Pang Pootson. Fortunately, she was healthly and strong. Because the temporary field was not an good place for a baby, Sai Chon and her mom had to walk back to the historic Kraal where the other moms and babies were staying. The road was closed due to flooding, so they had to walk on their own, but with quite an entourage of mahouts and admirers who stopped often to make sure Sai Chon and mom got enough rest.  To see more pictures please follow this link.