“Tree Tops has collaborated with Drum n Bass legend, DJ, music pioneer and producer, graffiti artist, actor, and animal lover, Goldie (MBE), who has generously created an awesome graffiti inspired design, signed by Goldie himself, to raise funds to feed our elephants,” said a release from Tree Tops Elephant Reserve announcing the campaign.
“By purchasing a Goldie T-shirt, Hoodie or Sweater, the money raised will go directly to buying the daily food supply for our seven elephants for the next six months (or more).
“All garments are ethically sourced and printed with vegan inks,” the announcement added.
The fund-raising garments are being sold through Wild & Grey clothing, a clothing brand launched by Tree Tops Co-Founder, Louise Rogerson, who blended her career in fashion and love of elephants to raise funds to save elephants globally.
Tree Tops opened in October 2019 and is the first ethical elephant sanctuary in the south of Phuket, located in the hills of Chalong on the western side of the Klong Kratha reservoir.
“We closed in March and rely solely on tourism for our revenue,” said the announcement.
“We are urgently in need of funding to feed and care for our seven elephants: Nam Gaew, Fah Sai, Lam Poon, Boon Song, Tong Tip, Nam Sook, and Nam Phet. We are realistically looking at 2021 before tourists will return to Phuket and even then, we are unsure of visitor numbers. Therefore, we are planning a minimum of six months to one year to stay afloat,” the announcement added.
Feeding the elephants costs just under B1,000 a day per elephant, Louise said, noting that a minimum of B200,000 a month is needed to feed the seven elephants.
“To feed and care for our 7 elephants costs US$30 a day per elephant; 1 truck of pineapple grass costs US$45 (two pickup trucks delivered each day). Plus we buy bananas, watermelon, pumpkin and other fruits and vegs,” the announcement explained.
“Funds needed for any medical care and funds needed to provide nutritious rice balls and vitamins for our 70-year-old elephant Nam Sook.”
In comparison, the Wild & Grey T-shirts cost £20 (about B813), Sweatshirts £26 (just over B1,000) and Hoodies cost £34 (about B1,380).
WORLD ELEPHANT DAY
The call for support to help elephants survive the economic crisis brought on by the COVID pandemic comes as World Elephant Day is recognised around the globe today (Aug 12).
“Whilst we should be celebrating how incredible and magnificent elephants are, the sad reality during COVID is that many elephants and elephant camps are struggling financially in Phuket and throughout Thailand. The situation is very serious, particularly with the latest news that we won’t likely see tourists until 2021,” said Louise.
“World Elephant Day gives us a moment to think about every elephant both in Thailand and globally. Every elephant confined in a zoo, poached and killed for their ivory, forced to perform in a circus, every baby elephant taken from its mother. Humans are the only threat to elephants and it is devastating to see the global population declining.
“Our mission at Tree Tops is to educate our visitors about how magnificent elephants are and why they need to be protected,” she explained.
Despite elephants being classified as endangered, populations are rapidly depleting for both Asian and African elephants, with only an estimated 40,000-50,000 elephants left in the wild.
Critical factors affecting the long-term survival of the species ranges from the massacre of elephants for their ivory in Africa, deforestation and human-elephant conflict to the cruelty to elephants performing in tourism throughout Asia, noted the Tree Tops release.
Elephants were previously used in logging and then sold into tourism, where they are commonly forced to carry a chair on their backs to give rides.
“They are beaten and trained to perform circus tricks. Baby elephants are taken from their mothers as young as 2 years old as tourists want to see a cute baby elephant.
“The threats against Thai elephants come only from human exploitation. In the early 1900s there were around 100,000 elephants in Thailand, now only about 5,000 are left,” the release explained.
THE PATH LESS TRAVELED
Tree Tops Elephant Reserve was created by Wallop Joe P. Luengdhama, who has spent 35 years in the tourism industry and has a deep love of elephants, and Louise, who has worked with elephants in Asia since 2010.
Together with Co-founder and now also Marketing Director Russell Withers the team rescues and retires captive elephants who previously worked exhausting hours in the logging industry, or gave rides and performed in shows for tourist entertainment.
“We are pioneering ethical elephant tourism in the South of Phuket and offer visitors an Adventure of a Lifetime to learn about, love, and respect elephants through our compassionate and gentle approach.
“We do not allow bathing with elephants as this is not putting the welfare of the elephants first. It is stressful for the elephants, dangerous for guests, unhygienic, and unethical,” the team explains on their website.
“We transitioned an old elephant riding camp into a beautiful sanctuary. We were No. 1 on TripAdvisor within the first three months of opening and still hold this position,” said the release issued yesterday.
“We have seven gorgeous elephants ranging from 10 to 70 years old. Our youngest 10 year old elephant, Fah Sai, was previously performing tricks in a show. Our adult elephants all previously worked in the logging industry, then were sold into tourism to give rides.
“Now our elephants roam free, and bathe and play in our ponds and streams enjoying their freedom and their new lives after decades of hard labour,” it added.
Co-founder and now also Marketing Director Russell explains, “Tourists dictate what the tourism industry provides, and if there is a demand to see elephants perform in shows, give rides or bathe with them in the water, then the industry will provide that.
“It is important to show tourists from around the world that all animals in tourism must be treated with respect. This is why we have created Tree Tops Elephant Reserve. We truly believe that putting animal welfare first is the way forward for Phuket’s elephant tourism industry,” he added.