Wednesday, October 4, 2023

How Phuket Nature Elephant Reserve Stood Firm For The Last 2 Years

The Phuket Nature Elephant Reserve is an accredited, ethical and sustainable elephant sanctuary located in close proximity to the beautiful Bangtao, Layan & Surin beaches on the west coast of Phuket Thailand.

The reserve was founded in 2019 by NZ expat Cam McLean who has lived in Asia for close to 30 years and been working with rescued elephants for 7 years. It’s his dream to provide a safe refuge for neglected elephants and help change peoples attitudes towards animal tourism for the better…..but as you will read it almost didn’t happen.

Having spent major investment & time in 2019 during the construction of the Phuket Nature Elephant Reserve, which covers 30 rai  of beautiful jungle on the West coast of Phuket Thailand, we were barely open 6 weeks before being forced to close in early 2020 due to government covid restrictions, closed borders and zero tourism. We had around 22 staff, 3 rescued elephants and just starting to gain some momentum when it all came tumbling down…to zero!

The Last 2 years at the Phuket Nature Elephant Reserve was massively challenging to say the least. the fact that We’re still here is a miracle in itself!

2021 (and 2020 before it) will always be remembered for the massive personal, financial & mental stress that was bought upon all of us by the covid pandemic.

The closure of the Phuket Nature Elephant Reserve lasted 16mths in total and like many I’m sure, some of the darkest periods of our lives.

Fast forward to the beginning of this year, and by some miracle, totally out of the blue and right at the lowest point, a couple of old friends reached out and offered to help. I think I was in shock for a good hour just trying to comprehend & digest it all. The Phuket Nature Elephant Reserve was saved…..for now!

We started cleaning up the Phuket Nature Elephant Reserve which had become overgrown and in need of repairs as the jungle moved in during the closure. We rescued two beautiful elephants from an elephant riding, bathing & circus park in Phuket to come and live a new life, chain-free and abuse-free at the Phuket Nature Elephant Reserve. Both elephants, and many others, had been chained up on the side of a hill in Phuket during the entire covid shutdown struggling for food. Our first rescued elephant was gorgeous Lotus a 45-year-old female elephant weighing around 2.5 tonne and later Boe, an absolutely lovely 40-year-old female elephant weighting around 3.3 tonne. We were so excited to be able to rescue them both and see them quickly adapt to their new surroundings and start putting on weight! The Phuket Nature Elephant Reserve was alive again!

In June 2021 we finally re-opened our reserve but with a different format relying heavily on the local expat and Thai community for support. We converted our large program briefing area to a free-entry observation deck restaurant named the Ban Chang (Elephant home/shelter) Restaurant Phuket where visitors can enjoy great local Western, Thai & Isan (Northern Thai) cuisine, drinks, and purchase elephant food (bananas & sugarcane) to meet and help feed our rescued elephants.

We also started providing daily yoga classes, weekend adventure hikes & kids drama workshops to add to the new community spirit which were well received and continue to expand. Recently we relaunched our accredited, ethical, and sustainable half-day Elephant Care Adventure Program which focuses on education and interacting with our elephants in their natural environment and observing their natural behavior. 100% no riding, bathing, chaining, or abuse is permitted at the Phuket Nature Elephant Reserve. You can learn more about our programs here – https://www.phuketnatureelephantreserve.com/elephantcareprogrames/

We rely heavily on these programs, our restaurant, and the other activities to support our elephants and pay the monthly bills which are considerable considering our 2 rescued elephants alone eat over 500kg of food daily!

Hopefully 2022 will be a better year and we are able to rescue more neglected elephants to come and live at the Phuket Nature Elephant Reserve.

Please do come and visit we would love to see you, thank you for reading.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more you can contact Cam at info@phuketnaturereserve.com

Written by Cam McLean – Founder and Director at the Phuket Nature Elephant Reserve

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