Sweet sup­port for ele­phants

Central Leader - - NEWS - By KELLY DENNETT

A TEACHER is 4000 choco­late bars away from achiev­ing her dream of buy­ing a Thai ele­phant.

Block­house Bay In­ter­me­di­ate teacher Tracey Hand vis­ited Thai­land for the first time with her hus­band and best friend three years ago and de­cided she wanted to ride an ele­phant.

She started look­ing into the deals of­fered by nu­mer­ous com­pa­nies and found a new pur­pose – to save one of the an­i­mals in­stead.

Ms Hand fo­cused her at­ten­tion on the Ele­phant Na­ture Park in the Chi­ang Mai re­gion.

The park is a res­cue and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tre, a sanc­tu­ary for re­tired or ill­treated ele­phants.

Some of the an­i­mals that end up there have been in pri­vate own­er­ship and it costs around US$8000 to lib­er­ate them.

Sang­duen ‘‘Lek’’ Chail­ert and Adam Flinn es­tab­lished the park in 1996 and have cared for ar least 35 ele­phants since.

The an­i­mals are free to roam in the val­ley which has been re­planted to re­sem­ble their nat­u­ral habi­tat.

‘‘They’re not there to per­form or make money and vis­i­tors can still in­ter­act with them.

‘‘At the park they’re able to have their last years in freedom,’’ Ms Hand says.

She kicked her goal into high gear ear­lier this year and en­listed some of her year 8 pupils who have been study­ing zoo an­i­mals to help her raise enough money to re­lo­cate an ele­phant to the park.

The stu­dents were shocked at the con­di­tions Thai ele­phants are raised in.

‘‘We were shocked to learn peo­ple poach and kill ele­phants for their ivory,’’ Ajesh Sharma, 12, says.

He is one of seven pupils and two par­ents who are vol­un­teer­ing their time to help Ms Hand sell Fair Trade choco­lates at Block­house Bay Com­mu­nity and Essence of Europe mar­kets.

So far they have raised $3800. Ms Hand hopes to reach $8000 by Novem­ber 2014.

Sell­ing choco­late: Seven of Ms Hand’s pupils at Block­house Bay In­ter­me­di­ate are vol­un­teer­ing their time to raise money for Thai ele­phants.

Bro­ken leg: Ele­phant Na­ture Park in Chi­ang Mai saves ele­phants like this one that have been ne­glected by own­ers.

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