Mae Mai, a 30-year-old elephant, appears weathered and aged well beyond her years, carrying the physical and emotional scars of her debilitating past as a logging elephant. Rescued by a nonprofit organization in Thailand, she serves as both a symbol of an ongoing crisis and a glimmer of hope as she undergoes recovery in a safe and nurturing environment.
“Prior to the onset of [COVID-19], she was robust and in good health,” explained the nonprofit Gentle Giants Stay Home Project. “However, with the advent of [COVID-19], she was consigned to the logging industry.”
“Her condition has deteriorated significantly. She is quite literally broken, with a shattered leg and a spirit crushed. Mae Mai has been enduring, standing in wait for the embrace of death,” they added.
A dedicated team from the Save Elephant Foundation (SEF), a nonprofit organization committed to the well-being of Asian elephants, stepped in before it was too late. They orchestrated the rescue and took custody of the ailing elephant, providing her with a safe haven for recovery at their Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai.
On January 8, 2021, Mae Mai was welcomed at the Save Elephant Foundation Elephant clinic, where she received immediate care from Doctor Tom Channarong Srisa-ard and his team, as detailed in a Facebook post by SEF founder Saengduean Lek Chailert.
Lek noted, “She appeared more at ease and relished the food that everyone had lovingly prepared to welcome her.” This sentiment was captured in accompanying photos showing Mae Mai enjoying a bucket filled with watermelons.
During her first night at the park, Mae Mai slept serenely on a sand bed. The next day, Lek provided an update. An X-ray revealed that Mae Mai’s leg had a dislocated femur, a torn joint, a fractured tibia, and significant soft tissue swelling, as diagnosed by Dr. Tom.
The doctor outlined Mae Mai’s treatment plan, which included restrictions on walking, pool therapy, pain and wound management, as well as essential nutritional supplements.
To celebrate Mae Mai’s arrival at her new sanctuary, Gentle Giants arranged a special cake for the elephant. Lek observed, “[S]he ate so deliberately, carefully selecting each piece of fruit, trying not to waste anything.”
On January 10, Mae Mai, who displayed a gentle and cooperative nature, experienced her first hydrotherapy session in the park’s pool. Lek expressed on Facebook, “She understands her own need for recovery and desires it. Often, our elephants take time before they trust the pool, but she entered right away. She loved it, experiencing deep relaxation and even taking a nap in the water.”
Mae Mai will be encouraged to use the pool every day. “If she fights to live,” Lek assured followers, “we will do everything possible to help her.”
The overworked Fha Rong, 65, and emaciated Mai Tai, only in her forties, will also be given a second chance at life.
The project thanked their “GG family” for surpassing their target of $75,000, adding, “Your loving, caring, compassionate hearts have helped secure a better future for these precious gentle ones.”
Funds raised beyond what was needed for the elephants’ initial rescue, said Gentle Giants, would go toward “everything the girls need,” including shelter, food, and ongoing medical care.
“As we know their care doesn’t stop when they are rescued,” they said, “but truly begins!”