Archive for the ‘Blog Guests’ Category

Love & Teamwork Save Elephant at FAE’s Elephant Hospital

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Soraida Salwala supervises as the staff at FAE try to help Thongbai stand up. (Photo credit: Michael Wysocki).

By Michael Wysocki

The laws of nature rarely show mercy, but today here at FAE hospital we escaped death. This morning I woke up the moment the first sunray showered my face. Instead of laying and just being for a bit like most mornings, I instinctively got up, threw on my favorite orange uniform, and grabbed my camera. Between the foliage and the topography of this place, I learned in order to find my friends I must listen not look, and as I picked up their voices I knew, they were with Thongbai. He is our 45-year old male patient, blind in his right eye, skinny, weak, came to us about a week ago for the treatment of an abscess on his back from the equipment he carries as a life long logging Elephant.

The Aftermath of Elephant Logging

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Thongbai, a 45-year old elephant with wounds from hauling logs, is treated at FAE's Elephant Hospital. (Photo credit: Michael Wysocki).

by Michael Wysocki

You and I have chosen to care and be a part of a pure thing in this world, but no living creature is exempt from the wrath of Man’s greed.

Soraida works very hard to protect the FAE hospital, and anyone and any Elephant within it, from the corrupt, cruel, and judgmental realities of this world. But with the rains back and the trucks arriving with new patients, we are totally submersed into it. Thankful as I am, Soraida knows that without major change and cooperation from the government this will always be, until the elephants no longer exist.  She travels back and forth to Bangkok immersing herself amongst the tough and powerful politicians, speaking her voice without flinching.

I sense that Thailand, as other countries have before it, has reached a critical point to either protect its environment, which includes the human population, by protecting the forest and its inhabitants; or finish her off for some quick cash. Thailand can be a misleading place, almost like an illusion. My train ride from the south to north was full of natural beauty of what appears to be virgin tropical jungle, in my mind teaming with wildlife such as Tigers, Sun bears, Monkeys and Elephants. I was thrilled with even just the slight chance of spotting one of these species as I stared for hours out the window.  I actually knew that this was just me, again in my fantasy world, but I have always dreamed of that world and I refused to let it go, as does Soraida. There is still hope for Thailand; not only do the laws have to be changed, but they also have to be honored.

Life and Loss at FAE’s Elephant Hospital

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Mosha & Palahdee relax on her mat at FAE. (Photo credit: Michael Wysocki).

By Michael Wysocki

Kammoon, a former patient of FAE admitted a year ago for severe constipation, has now left our world. Heavy rains at an elephant tourist camp proved to be fatal for Kammoon, causing her to slip down into a narrow ravine immobilizing her. The rains poured down and with no truck to help dig her out, time was just too precious. Now we can only imagine her story, and just try to understand her fate.  Bless you Kammoon and thank you for your presence here on earth.

After this tragic loss, and the rains gone for now, we enter a new day filled with sunshine and hope here at FAE. While Soraida heals and regains strength to continue her mission rescuing her “children”, the team stays focused on healing the ones within their reach. Motala and Mosha continue their rehabilitation and practice daily using their Prosthetic leg, I am so proud of you two. Ya’ll bring so much joy to the visitors that come from even across the world to see you. They even know of Mosha’s cheeky habits like turning on the water faucet on the other side of the fence and scrubbing her own enclosure. She loves her young mahout, Palahdee, and just seems so content lying there on her bed resting her body next to him, still using her lively trunk to pick at him.

Where do the elephants go?

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

After being treated at FAE's Elephant Hospital, an elephant is returned to its owner and transported back to Chiang Mai. (Photo by Michael Wysocki).

By Michael Wysocki

Everywhere I go I am so fascinated and curious, like there’s more to these Elephants than I realized. I have only been here a few days and I have seen five Elephants come or go. Where are they coming from? Where do they go?

Elephant-mahout connections at the World’s First Elephant Hospital

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

Day 2 from Michael Wysocki:

After two full days at FAE I am starting to understand its being, not only the Elephants as creatures but this entire sanctuary of a home for every life here. Soraida has created a little 200 acre world and as I walk around I ask myself, how did she do it? I have read about her journey thus far, all the financial struggle, discouraging events, and even death threats; but to be inside the home, the core, of the fight to save the Asian Elephant is the most “down to earth” feeling I have ever felt.

So, I became curious to really understand the intentions of the people who live and work these Elephants. Mahouts and young and upcoming mahouts are the Elephant’s keeper and family. Elephants as a species are smart, strong, and free-willed and I am learning what it takes to earn an Elephant’s trust, especially one that has been exploited in the past.  My goal was to observe today without interfering, so I sat down on rain soaked soil amongst the banana trees with my camera, staring and listening to the secret language between an Elephant and its mahout. There is a language barrier between me and the mahouts, which is probably best for them because I am full of questions, but I have learned a way to gain their trust and accept to my presence: I smile. Smiling with Thai people has become my favorite game because, so far, everyone has smiled back, if not first.

FAE through “the eyes of Thailand”

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

PoHaePa stepped on a landmine in Burma on September 11, 2011. (Photo by Michael Wysocki).

From Guest Blogger, Michael Wysocki:

It took me 5 days to make my way from Los Angeles to Mae- Yao National Reserve in Northern Thailand, where FAE lives. I did choose to go through Thailand’s infamous Bangkok, and with all of its scenes,  colors, and human indulgence is took me a couple days to actually get out. Bangkok helped me to understand Thailand as a whole, as I am searching to understand how we as humans could possibly let the iconic symbol of Thailand and the father of its forests disappear.  In reality, the symbol is becoming an illusion of what once was.

During my mesmerizing thirteen-hour train ride from Bangkok to Lampang, all I could do is try and imagine what was ahead of me. After being immediately surrounded by love with the people at FAE, I wandered around with my camera excited for the moments to come. It was then I realized that trying to imagine this place is like trying to imagine heaven and hell, more like hell turning into heaven for these lucky elephants.  My complete attention was fixed on FAE’s newest patient, Po Hae Pa, a twenty-two year old massive bull resting on his side. He had fallen victim of a landmine across the border in Burma a few days ago.  I approached him knowing of his battle wound and prepared, so I thought, from reported photos of his injury but I tell you from one heart to another that it still hurts. My first feeling was like my heart sunk into my belly, next I cringed for his pain. Remember the big tsunami that struck southeast Asia in 2004 and there were stories of the captive elephants running for higher ground before it hit. That is because elephant’s feet are so sensitive that they felt the earthquake. They don’t just instinctively head for higher ground, they are taught from their ancestors and remember, that is just one initiative of how complex these creatures are.

When Po Hae Pa sensed my presence, he made his way onto his feet and it was then I saw what a giant he was. He turned faced me directly and literally showed me his wound by sticking out his front left leg and pointing to the exposed flesh of a foot with his trunk. Here it is the essence of FAE hospital and “ The Eyes of Thailand.” The king of the jungle stripped of his dominance and in need of help. Through his deep rumbles, I heard him telling me what happened, and asking me, WHY?

Michael Wysocki

Meet Michael Wysocki, Guest Blogger for “The Eyes of Thailand”

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

Michael Wysocki and Motala, an elephant landmine survivor featured in "The Eyes of Thailand" film. (Photo by Michael Wysocki).

Hello, All,

I am happy to introduce a Guest Blogger to “The Eyes of Thailand” community. Michael Wysocki is a new Ele-friend who has the unique experience of volunteering at FAE’s Elephant Hospital in Lampang, Thailand. We welcome Michael to the elephant family and look forward to sharing his on-the-ground updates from FAE, Soraida and the other elephants featured in our film.

And with that, here’s Michael:

Sawadeekrab friends,

My name is Michael Wysocki.  I am part Polish, part Native American, and was born and raised on the tiny traditional islands of America’s Lowcountry where life flowed straight from the saltwater rivers into my veins. When I was eighteen, I ventured off to Australia and studied Environmental Science/ Zoology at James Cook University of Cairns.  Down under I worked as a zookeeper at the Cairns Wildlife Safari Reserve… a time in my life when twenty-six Lions, two Cheetah, and one Tiger were my world.  Since then, I have helped train Chimpanzees in New Zealand, built a Primate rescue center in Peru for exploited wild animals, developed wildlife photographs, modeled in NYC, filmed and produced outdoor television programming, and now, at the age of twenty-seven, have made my way to FAE hospital in Lampang, Thailand. I am a simple and humble guy with a complicated heart and a whole heap of instincts, hope, love, and faith that fuel my life.

So follow me and let’s bring awareness to the world about the realities of today’s Asian Elephants and their fight for survival through “The Eyes of Thailand.” I will post photos and write of my days here at FAE hospital, deep in the Jungles of Thailand… a place where I am blessed to witness miracles everyday and happily share them with you.

A visit to FAE’s Elephant Hospital by Belinda Ogley

Friday, April 9th, 2010

Belinda Ogley and Soraida Salwala with elephant landmine survivor Motala.

The Eyes of Thailand fan and supporter Belinda Ogley visited FAE’s Elephant Hospital in February.  Here is what she had to say:

In February 2010, I flew from Heathrow to Thailand, heading for Sukhothai where I had arranged to stay in the guest house of Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary (BLES).  I was somewhat thrilled with anticipation.  When I finally met Katherine Connor, the owner of BLES, my anticipation turned to joy – I was surrounded by 200 acres of lush forest and animals (wild life and rescued elephants, dogs, cats, cows, tortoise).

Katherine then took me to visit the FAE hospital in Lampang.  Soraida was kind enough to show us around the hospital and introduced us to the patients currently undergoing treatment or requiring life-time care. We spent time with Motala and played with Mosha, both of whom have prosthetic limbs and the tiny baby elephant, Dante who was born prematurely. We watched the vets treat a new comer who had arrived the night before.

Baby Dante using a block to reach his mother to nurse (Feb 2010).

I was moved to tears over and over again as we listened to Soraida tell the painful stories of each individual. My tears of sadness were quickly replaced by hope for the future as I watched the vets care so lovingly for the sick animals.   It warmed my heart to see Katherine and Soraida together, whose shared passion for the elephants and their welfare has led to a firm and fruitful friendship.

Soraida Salwala (FAE) and Katherine Connor (BLES).

This visit to FAE was a most humbling experience for me to see such gentle giants formerly enslaved by the covetousness of humans and reduced to begging and illegal logging, but now free although only able to walk with the aid of prosthetic limbs.

-Belinda Ogley

If you’ve visited Soraida Salwala and FAE’s Elephant Hospital and want to tell us about your trip, please leave us a comment. Your story could appear in our next blog or newsletter!


Windy Borman

Director/Producer, The Eyes of Thailand

Coco Hall’s “Elephant Girl”, Part 3

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Coco Hall has been an animal activist since 1991 cocohall_picture1when she spent six weeks on the Sea Shepard crew. She has been focused on elephants for seven years, working to release the seven elephants at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, supporting elephant sanctuaries such as PAWS in San Andreas CA, and as a Board Member of Joyce Poole’s ElephantVoices. She has been a political artist for twenty years, covering environmental and animal rights themes with her multi-media sculptures. She coauthored and drew her first graphic novel, Ignoring Binky, published in 2001 by Checkmate Press under the nome de plume Beverly Red.

Elephant Girl is a graphic novel based on the life of Calle the elephant, who was euthanized by the San Francisco Zoo in 2004. Intertwined with her story is that of a young girl who lives a parallel life. Both kidnapped in India as children, smuggled to the United States, they find themselves prey of an unimaginably foreign world. The tale rises upon the girl’s determination to break both their chains and return to India.

The Eyes of Thailand blog posted Parts 1 and 2 on November 9 and 16, respectively.  Part 3 of 3 appears below…

Elephant Girl AFTERWORD (cont.)

By Coco Hall

The 1980s witnessed the price of ivory reach $100 per pound. Rural farmers and herders could make more selling the tusks of one elephant than by 12 years of hard labor. And that is not to mention the numerous wars supported by the ivory spoils of fallen elephants. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 1990 slowed the decimation of elephants, but since all countries have not supported the ivory ban, the killing continues.

Except for most Asian females, elephants’ incisor teeth are tusks, which grow throughout their lives. Poachers target the elephant with the largest tusks, i.e. the mature leaders. Without the guidance and accumulated knowledge of such elders, both female and male herds become leaderless juveniles.

The fabric of both human and elephant societies depends on parents teaching their offspring how to behave, modeling proper behavior, and handing down knowledge necessary for survival. Studies of animals and human genocide survivors show that early trauma can have permanent psycho-physiological effects on brain and behavior including a susceptibility to PTSD and a tendency to violence in adulthood. Elephant groups or individuals become “rogue”, destroying farms, settlements, and even killing people.

“Elephant Breakdown”, G.A. Bradshaw, Allan N. Schore, Janine L. Brown, Joyce H. Poole, Cynthia J. Moss, Nature. Vol. 433, 2/24/05

These escalating conflicts with humans in both Asia and Africa are one of the main adversities we face in saving the species.

Most of the 500 captive elephants currently in North America live in zoos, circuses, wildlife parks (which are essentially zoos), and breeding farms. As few as thirty (30) live in true sanctuaries where they are not publicly exhibited or coerced in any way. Unlike zoos, even with well meaning and kind keepers, sanctuaries provide the space and autonomy elephants need to enjoy a healthy life. For an elephant, with its vast natural habitat and complex social network, life in a circus is no different than imprisonment. Daily physical and verbal abuse is the norm. Trainers in circuses routinely beat elephants with a bullhook, a metal instrument similar to a fireplace poker. Ringling Brothers circus forces their elephants to perform daily for 48 to 50 weeks a year. When not performing, they are kept chained as many as 22 hours a day, standing in their own excrement on wet floors, similar to those which cut short Calle’s life. They go without bathing, mud wallowing, socializing, and every other normal elephant activity so that we may sit in the bleachers cheering their forced participation, completing the same unnatural tricks which are the whole of their repeated days.

Ringling Brothers’ elephant-breeding farm in Florida claims it raises its performers, yet the industry resource on elephant births, deaths, and captures, shows that the majority of Ringling’s elephants were captured in the wild. In either case, babies are separated from their mothers causing physical, emotional, and psychological harm. Circuses claim that their performing elephants will motivate the protection of this endangered species, yet in 2000 alone, poachers killed 60 wild female elephants so that their babies could be captured and sold to the entertainment industry. Between the early 1960s and late 1980s, 368 baby African elephants were imported to the USA for zoos. One hundred and fifty-eight of those elephants are already dead.

Of those who have survived many are solitary—a life of torture to an elephant. For them, their wild ranging Asian or African landscapes are gone, replaced by what the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) permits for elephant enclosures: as little as 40 by 45 feet—about the size of a three-car garage.

elephantgirlcover3Elephants and other captive animals are not the only prisoners and slaves on earth. There are 27 million human slaves in the world today, more than all the people stolen from Africa in the time of the transatlantic slave trace. In the 21st century, slaves cost so little they are utterly disposable. In Thailand, poor, rural parents commonly sell a little girl into prostitution or servitude for the price of a TV. Sound like a third world phenomenon? It is not. Slave prostitutes have been found in NYC, Seattle, LA, and even Berkeley.

Other slaves abound in sweatshops and third world agriculture. In India, the children of bonded farmers are born into “bondage”, inheriting their father’s insurmountable debt. It is on this tragic but common ground that the characters of Elephant Girl meet. Our protagonists were stolen from their homes, their families, their lives. Unfortunately our own telling cannot alter Calle’s history, but we hold out hope for those who remain enslaved.

Coco Hall


To purchase Elephant Girl, visit

To recommend other Guest Bloggers, please email

Coco Hall’s “Elephant Girl”, Part 2

Monday, November 16th, 2009

picture-11Author Coco Hall shares an excerpt from Elephant Girl, her graphic novel based on the life of Calle the elephant, who was euthanized by the San Francisco Zoo in 2004. Intertwined with her story is that of a young girl who lives a parallel life. Both kidnapped in India as children, smuggled to the United States, they find themselves prey of an unimaginably foreign world. The tale rises upon the girl’s determination to break both their chains and return to India.

Coco Hall has been an animal activist since 1991 when she spent six weeks on the Sea Shepard crew. She has been focused on elephants for seven years, working to release the seven elephants at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, supporting elephant sanctuaries such as PAWS in San Andreas CA, and as a Board Member of Joyce Poole’s ElephantVoices. She has been a political artist for twenty years, covering environmental and animal rights themes with her multi-media sculptures. She coauthored and drew her first graphic novel, Ignoring Binky, published in 2001 by Checkmate Press under the nome de plume Beverly Red.

The Eyes of Thailand blog published Part 1 of the 3-Part series on Monday, November 9, 2009.  Part 2 appears below.

Elephant Girl AFTERWORD (cont.)

By Coco Hall

Cow elephants are very maternal to all calves in the herd, often including strange, orphaned youngsters. The matriarch leads the herd, making all decisions. Older elephants stand over their sleeping young to protect and shade them. In sanctuaries, female adults stand by their sleeping friends, often with one foot on them or touching them with their trunk. Ed Stewart, Co-Founder of PAWS, said once he was lying in a pasture and an elephant came right next to him and gently stood over him waiting for him to “wake up”. This same gentle mass forms an almost impenetrable wall around the matriarch and babies when in danger.

Working together the cows will help fallen members stand, but if the matriarch is hurt or killed, they will mill around not knowing what to do. When an elephant dies, the others linger with her for a long time, sometimes trying to get her to stand. Joyce Poole describes the grief-stricken days of a mother over her stillborn calf:

“…Tonie stayed out on the barren plains with her dead baby for the rest of the day and through the long night. The following morning Cyn and I left the camp on foot and walked to the edge of the palms from where we could see Tonie still watching over her stillborn infant. Fifteen vultures and a jackal hovered around her; she charged and they scattered for a few seconds only to return. Tonie placed herself between her baby and the scavengers, and, facing them, she gently nudged the body with her hind leg. As I watched Tonie’s vigil over her dead newborn, I got my first very strong feeling that elephants grieve. I will never forget the expression on her face, her eyes, her mouth, the way she carried her ears, her head, and her body. Every part of her spelled grief.

By now Tonie had been standing out on the bare plains without food or water for over twenty-four hours. Cyn and I walked back to camp, found a jerry can, and filled it with water….

As we drove toward Tonie she charged. I placed a basin on the ground, poured the water into it, and then drove away. She lifted her trunk toward the water and walked immediately toward it,….She drank quickly, emptying the basin in two trunkfuls…

Later that morning Cyn and I returned to Tonie with another two containers of water…Tonie drank while I poured the water onto her trunk, her tusks no more than ten centimeters from my head. After she had emptied both cans, she reached through the door of my car and twice touched my arm with her trunk.

In the early afternoon I returned once again with more water…(she) used the last bit of water to splash on herself….she again reached inside the car and touched me gently on my chest and arm.

The following morning we found Tonie still on her vigil, attempting to chase away the ever-closer vultures. Later that day she had gone, and all that remained on the plains was a few vultures and scattered bones.”

Coming of Age with Elephants p. 95-96

Depending on resource distribution, a wild elephant’s home range can be from 5 square miles to 1350 square miles. Walking as many as 18 hours and 50 miles per day foraging for food, they laid the original paths for many of today’s African highways.

Elephants’ need for food (300-400 pounds a day) dictates the size of their habitat. They consume just about every type of vegetation and fruit. The only animal elephants compete with for food is humans, whose African and Asian populations have quadrupled in the past 100 years, demolishing elephant habitat for cropland, pastureland for livestock, and timber for housing and fuel. Habitat loss is not the only agent of elephant population depletion. Elephant numbers plummeted when ivory prices spiked between 1970 and 1990. There were 5 to 10 million elephants in Africa in 1930, 1.3 million in 1979 and only 450,000 in 2008. Asian elephant populations stood at 100,000 in 1900 but were estimated to be between 35,000 and 51,000 in 2000.

To order Elephant Girl, visit elephantgirlcover2