Posted by WorkingAbroad Projects on Thursday, 2nd November 2017
Our Elephant Volunteer Project in Mae Chaem, Thailand, recently brought Fluffy the elephant into retirement. Fluffy is 60 years old and after a hard life working for the past 30 years, had been suffering with stiffness and digestion problems. Fluffy’s owner knew in their heart of hearts that it was time for her to stop working, and with the knowledge that she could go to such a brilliant place to retire, said their goodbyes.
In order to take Fluffy in, they first required the funding to do so, which as a small sanctuary was difficult. They launched a campaign on Facebook highlighting the issue and raised funds through SimplyGiving. They were also contacted by the Canadian NGO International Wildlife Protection, who offered sponsorship to rescue an elephant, and on the 11th November it was time for Fluffy to retire!
The sanctuary staff arrived as she gave her last tourist ride before the trekking basket came off for the last time. She received a blessing ceremony and emotional goodybe from her owners before being very brave and walking onto the truck ready to be taken to the sanctuary and her new life away from the hardships of mass tourism and elephant rides.
Fluffy settled in well, and despite still suffering from digestion issues, the team are changing her diet to suit her better. Throughout her life, Fluffy was never able to roam freely and as a result was nervous when provided with this opportunity. She was hesitant to eat grass, possibly worried she would get in trouble, but eventually plucked up the courage to try some. Fluffy was also very worried about noises to begin with and unsure of how to be an elephant. She has been getting better and is learning that it’s ok to take a dust bath, forage and drink water from the stream and not just the hose pipe.
For elephants like Fluffy retirement offers a new lease of life. Rather than working day in, day out, they are able to roam, play, eat well and be an elephant. Retirement sanctuaries also offer a lesson to tourists and locals alike. They promote the importance of protecting elephants and providing them with proper food, exercise, bathing and sleep.
By WorkingAbroad Blogger Ellen Coquio
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