ECN Blog

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Elephant Day in Kanchanaburi

13 March 2011

Following the successful debut of our Arts for Elephants project on Elephant Day 2010, the Elephant Conservation Network (ECN) organised another painting competition and associated activities for students aged 7-17 on Thai Elephant Day, 13 March.  This special celebration for a species that is so closely linked to Thailand was held in the historic part of Kanchanaburi town on the public green beside the old city wall.  It was a carnival atmosphere all day long, as children vied to win prizes in each age category, ignoring the heat, snacking on ice-cream, and enjoying the varied entertainment.  Participants were asked to illustrate the story of Porn Peemai, a tusker who inspired a 12-year old girl called Toyting to help protect wild elephants.

Before the competition began, a group of students from a local secondary school held a lively and provocative mini-drama, complete with sound-effects, in which the death of a rare pink elephant, shot while raiding crops, prompts a heated debate between villagers who must protect their livelihoods, and tourists who want to protect wildlife.  The problem is solved by an energetic conservationist who suggests that the villagers work together to protect their crops, helped by the tourists who offer to pay to see the elephants and other wildlife that the villagers help conserve.  A satisfactory outcome for everyone, except for the poor pink elephant!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Run for Elephants 2010

Group of students celebrating after the race
“Run for Elephants”, which took place on Sunday, 19th of December 2010, aimed to raise awareness about the wild elephants of the Salakpra wildlife sanctuary, as well as raising funds for the construction of an electric fence around the sanctuary to mitigate human-elephant conflict problems.

The day was a great success from start to finish! Over 400 runners competed in four events: the half marathon, mini marathon, 5km and 3.5km fun run.  Ages ranged from four years old to over sixty. Everyone who competed received a medal, with over ninety-five trophies and cash prizes given out.

ECN Director Belinda Stewart-Cox
Awards a Race Participant
This was the first year ECN has held “Run for Elephants” in December at the Baan Thamanao School. By holding to run at this venue, the running courses were able to provide the participants with a chance to experience the routes the wild Salakpra elephants take into the adjoining villages. By running on elephant tracks through different terrain and environments, runners are given a unique opportunity to connect with the purpose of the event, as well as giving “Run for Elephants” a distinctive quality found at no other running event.

There was a huge variety of local and non-local involvement and support on Sunday. Runners came from the local village and surrounding villages, from Songkla and Nakorn Sawan, as well as from other parts of Kanchanaburi and Bangkok. There ware also many foreigners competing in the race from France, England and Australia. The Sueb NGO and the Salakpra Wildlife Sanctuary rangers, as well as a great number of students from Baan Thamanao School, Baan Samlang School and Sri Sawat primary school showed great support for the event.

Honorable guests to the event included Mr. Cherdsak Champathed, the Vice Governor of Kanchanaburi; Belinda Stewart-Cox, the Director of ECN; Mr. Thin Pisuth, the representative from DNP’s protected Areas Regional Office 3; Mr. Khanchit Srinoppawan, the Chief of Salakpra; and Mr. Jarin Pornbandhitpattama and Jumbo Chatupornpaisan, the representatives of the Tourism Promotion Society of Kanchanaburi. Mr. Sing Purahong, the representative from Tourism Authority of Thailand, also kindly took part in the awards ceremony.

“Run for Elephants 2010” was a great day for everyone involved, and ECN hopes that it will become bigger and better. In 2011, it will take place at the same venue on the 18th of December and it is likely to become the province’s most unique annual event for many years to come.

For more information about the Run for Elephants 2011, please contact ECN.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Fun Run for Elephants 2009

A Day of Fun to Raise Wild Elephant Awareness

ECN recently sponsored a "Fun Run" in Kanchanaburi to raise awareness of the plight of Thailand's wild elephants, the the work ECN is doing to save critical habitat in Salakphra. Please enjoy these photos from the event. Contact us for more information about this and other events!

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Art for Elephants

A day of fun on March 13th, 2010

This fun event, sponsored by ECN and ZSL, will include art activities for children and informative activities about elephant conservation in Thailand. Last year the celebration attracted hundred of people, mostly children. About 60 students are registered in drawing competition. This year's theme is, "How humans and elephants co-exist?"

Contact us for more information.

ECN founding director Jittin Ritthirat, Kanchanaburi vice  governor Mr.Chaiwat Limwantha, and Mr. Nawarat Pongpaibun presented awards for the winners.

ECN volunteers get into the spirit!

Musicians from salakpra play live music at the stage near Kanchanaburi's old city gate

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Monday, February 18, 2008

First Impressions

by: Erik

Friends are constantly telling me to say "Hi" to the elephants, and they're always a little heartbroken when I then break the news that the odds of actually seeing a wild elephant aren't much greater than that of spotting Elvis ... especially when your primary job function is writing HTML for the new ECN website. But when the opportunity arose last week to accompany Belinda, Heidi, and Nat into Salakphra Wildlife Preserve, I held out hope: maybe I'd get lucky?

Salakphra Wildlife Preserve is located about 70 km northwest of Kanchanaburi; it consists of a mix of deciduous, dry dipterocarp, and seasonal evergreen forest. Despite its status as a preserve, Salakphra is seriously degraded; farmers burn the forest to create grassy areas for illegally grazing cattle, and the area is routinely logged of its most valuable wood. With a mere estimated 150 remaining wild elephants remaining, it's considered the front line of elephant conservation in southeast Asia.

We encountered firsthand evidence of human encroachment in the park before we'd even officially entered: from the main highway we witnessed a farmer leading a herd of buffalo out of the park, where he'd illegally grazed them. There was evidence of recent fire (or actual fire in progress!) in several areas, and we even encountered illegal logging. In the latter case the logger had just fled, leaving behind his would-be booty of redwood, along with the cart and the saw used in the crime. The rangers confiscated the wood and all the equipment, which was destined to become park property. The logger had built a small Buddhist shrine near the tree stump as an offering of forgiveness.

We spent three days visiting transects and taking notes, traveling through the jungle on motorbike with the park rangers. It was like a real-life video game trying to stay on the back of the motorbike, saddled with a pack-load of gear while dodging branches and vines. To make things more exciting, Boonchuu, my driver, had a particular penchant for popping wheelies while navigating logs and stones -- my left leg is still black and blue from getting bucked off the bike in a moment that fondly recalled my last encounter with a mechanical bull (another story for another time).

We camped out in the forest, sleeping in mosquito-proof hammocks (not for the claustrophobic) strung between trees. The rangers prepared some succulent Thai food from the provisions we'd brought with us, and when we lacked a bowl or even a coffee cup, these trained woodsmen could quickly fashion one from bamboo.

The of late afternoon as we hacked our way through bramble and thicket en route to the last transect, the mission nearly complete. It was then that we heard branches snapping with such ferociousness that I half expected to encounter an excavator clearing a new road. In fact, I'd just heard for the first time sounds of a wild elephant feeding. Our rangers immediately beckoned to turn back, but we had no such intention, pursuing the leviathan on our own until one of the rangers reluctantly chose to join us.

We managed to get within about 300 feet of the majestic megafauna, who must have been aware of our presence, yet kindly chose not to turn us into human pancakes! We simply stared in awe of the wild elephant as she fed, still managing to find sustenance in Salakphra.

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