After healing, it was obvious that her life of heavy labor was
over, she walked like a "peg-legged sailor," her leg could not
bend at all. She would never have to carry tourists on her back
and could never pull logs again. In some ways it could seem to
be a "blessing in disguise." Her owner decided to sell her to
someone from the Surin province. Most elephants from Surin end
up street begging in Bangkok, as there is no tourism in Surin.
An elephant with a previous injury creates a high sympathy
factor and often generates more income, but in Mae Bua Loy's
case, most people just complained to the mahout/owner
constantly, asking how he could possibly have the heart to work
an elephant in her condition. Finally, he tired of hearing all
of the criticism and took her back to Surin, this time with
other ideas in mind.
Often times female elephants with serious injuries that
prevent them from doing normal work are forced into 'breeding
programs' where their job is to get pregnant and produce babies
that will be torn away from them at an early age and sold into
slavery, so that the mother can once again be impregnated and
the cycle can be repeated endlessly, as long as she is fertile.
It is a miserable existence for a female elephant and she can be
chained up for months at a time, as was Mae Bua Loy's case.
Upon returning to Surin, she became pregnant and gave birth
18-22 months later as is the norm. This began a short period of
happiness for Mae Bua Loy, she loved her baby more than
anything, and just wanted to focus on being a mother, but her
owner was impatient, and wanted her to get pregnant again. He
first tried to mate her with a male approaching musth while she
was still nursing her baby. When she failed to get pregnant, her
owner sold her calf away from her, thinking that with no baby to
suckle she would start her ovulation cycle again, but Mae Bua
Loy was depressed, and wanted nothing to do with male elephants.
Finally, the owner resorted to drastic measures and kept her
chained for 3 months solid next to a male in musth. She was
forcibly mated with this male 29 times within this time frame
and did not become pregnant. Disgusted, her owner decided to
sell her and she ended up at the Surin Elephant Round-up, where
fate would change her life.
The Surin Elephant Round-up is a national elephant festival
celebrating the importance of the elephant in Thai culture and
history. It is held at the end of November, in the capital city
of Surin, in the Surin province. Each year, there are many
elephants present at the festival of various ages and physical
condition ready to be bought and sold, Lek goes to this festival
every year to document the condition and treatment of the
elephants present, and usually returns home with an elephant who
was in dire need of a new home and a new life.
Upon arrival at Elephant Nature Park, Mae Bua Loy gazed upon
Tong Tae, a young bull here on maternity leave with his mother,
Mae Tong Dee and knew that caring for him would help to heal her
broken heart. She was immediately accepted in to this family
group and became Tong Tae's number one auntie. She has settled
in quite well and seems very happy with her life as part of a
family group, enjoying her days caring for a baby, and just
being an elephant.