A pair of elephants kept as sʟᴀᴠᴇs for up to 80 years have finally been released to roam free in Thailand. Boonme and Buabaan have spent most of their lives working in the logging industry and elephant-trekking trade, where they were forced to work until ᴇxʜᴀᴜsᴛɪᴏɴ while being bound by ᴄʜᴀɪɴs.
But after a major funding ᴄᴀᴍᴘᴀɪɢɴ, they have finally been ꜰʀᴇᴇᴅ from their owners and released in to Thailand’s Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai. The ʀᴇsᴄᴜᴇ was made possible with the help of YouTube vlogger and filmmaker, Christian Leblanc, 23, from Canada. He helped to raise thousands of dollars to pay for their release.
After coming to the new home, the elephants have a better life. It is a far-cry from the ᴀʙᴜsɪᴠᴇ circumstances they were bound to for decades.Boonme, 80, and Buaban, 50, now spend most of their time splashing around, playing, and munching on fresh fruit and veggies in their new backyard, which includes a river and mud bath.
Christian said: “The elephants couldn’t be happier now. They’ve both made a new best friend named BaiCha and as a trio they’re inseparable. But before we ꜰʀᴇᴇᴅ them, they would’ve been giving dozens of people rides on their backs every day. To the point where Boonme actually ᴄᴏʟʟᴀᴘsᴇᴅ and had to be lifted by a crane so she could get back to work. That’s when we knew something had to be done.”
To reach the pair, Christian and his team travelled by truck for 15 hours to a town called Surin. The elephants were then immediately transported back to the Elephant Nature Park in custom made trucks, in a journey that took 23 hours. The ʀᴇsᴄᴜᴇ operation comes as a part of Christian’s upcoming documentary ‘Black Tusk’, which is attempting to educate travellers of the ᴄʀᴜᴇʟᴛʏ behind the ‘elephant trekking’ industry that is currently thriving in Thailand.
Like humans, elephants are very social and so they show immense ᴅɪsᴛʀᴇss when they are ᴛʀᴇᴀᴛᴇᴅ as they are in the trekking camps and elephant entertainment parks. You literally see them swaying back and forth and they will even let our cries of sadness and desperation. Christian said: “It’s truly horrific to see but I’m glad I did because it led me here. We hope that by showing people the ᴄʀᴜᴇʟᴛʏ that elephants face, we can help end the sᴜꜰꜰᴇʀɪɴɢ for these elephants and pave the path to responsible elephant tourism.”