Sweet support for elephants
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.