Thanks to Amy Adams from PAWS Bangkok, we had the opportunity to meet the BLES team. BLES (Boon Lott's Elephant Sanctuary) is an elephant shelter located in northern Thailand. It strives to rescue and protect the elephants of Thailand from abuse and ultimate extinction.
The sanctuary has been founded by Katherine Connor in memory of a calf named Boon Lott she rescued and took care of, but who unfortunately passed away because of a relapse of serious wounds and disabilty that affected him. They had a very special bound and Katherine was with him until his last moments. Boon Lott means "survivor" in Thai.
In memory of Boon Lott, Katherine decided to dedicate her life to the protection of asian elephants by creating the BLES sanctuary with the help of her family.
BLES organizes rescues of elephants in distress and takes care of old or mistreated elephants (whether they were exploited in the log industry or the tourism industry, forced to perform tricks or relentless tourists). This sanctuary allows them to learn natural behaviors such as forest walks, baths and interacting with their fellow companions, enjoying a huge natural land. There is no such things as elephant rides at BLES, and only a few tourists in small groups (never more than 6 people at a time) can enjoy contemplating the elephants in a respectful way.
15 to 20 elephants live there peacefully, in relative freedom, which means that most of the time they can wander around freely but they are under the watch of their personal "mahouts" (their protectors). Each mahout takes care of one or several elephants and ensures that they don't fight and stay within the big territory (several hectares) owned by BLES.
BLES is working in close collaboration with the local community; it employs 26 people from the nearest village, and conducts educational campaigns in schools, and buy only local products for additional elephant's food.