Madee, a 60-year-old female originally from a logging camp in Narathiwat, along with Kannika, a 32-year-old female originally from Surin province, arrived at the reserve, located on 70 rai near the Khao Phra Thaew Wildlife Sanctuary in Thalang, on August 20.
Madee spent most of her life working in the logging industry near the Thai Malay border, but was moved to Phuket in 2009 to start providing jungle trek tours to tourists.
Kannika, although only “middle-aged”, has already spent more than 20 years in Phuket working in the tourism industry.
“We are due to rescue more elephants very soon,” Louise Rogerson, Project Director of the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, told The Phuket News.
Ms Rogerson explained that the park is no longer called Elephant Nature Park (ENP) Phuket, as initially proposed when work on the sanctuary began in May, simply for promotional purposes.
“We changed the name so it would be easier for tourists to remember and easier to find on Google, nothing more,” she said.
“The Phuket Elephant Sanctuary remains a partnership between Lek Chailert, founder of the Save Elephant Foundation, myself as founder of EARS Asia, and Mr Montree Todtan,” she explained.
The ENP group operates much-respected elephant welfare reserves in Chiang Mai, Kanchanaburi, Surin and Cambodia, and Ms Lek Chailert has become a globally respected figure for her many decades of work dedicated to saving and protecting elephants. (See story here.)
“Kannika and Madee both used to be at my old camp, but it is time for them to retire,” explained
Montree Todtan, former owner of At Hill Adventure Park in Chalong but now CEO of the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary.
“We expect the park to become home to about 20 to 30 elephants. We have to pay for older elephants, but if any owners would like to donate their elephants to us, it would be our pleasure. We expect the sanctuary to become where older and injured elephants can be retired,” he said.
Mr Montree donated the 70 rai for the park to be built. The park is hoped to be expanded to 100 rai later.
“Now, I am using my own funds to take care of the elephants and to pay for the construction. Some of the budget has donated by Louise’s friends, who love elephants. The investment is also being used to build four shelters for the elephants,” Mr Montree said.
Ms Rogerson said she hoped for the sanctuary to open about the end of September.
“We are busy working through the rainy season and still have construction for the visitors centre to complete. I worry about saying a specific opening date at the moment in case we have a week of heavy rain,” she said.
Mr Montree added, “The opening of the sanctuary has been delayed from this month as initially proposed because some parts have yet to be completed, such as the visitors centre, which will be able to accommodate about 40 visitors at any one time.
“Heavy rain is the main reason for the delay in construction, and it has also affected the delivery of construction materials to where they are needed in the park,” he said.