In Memory of Song Kran

By 5 years ago
Categories Chiang Mai
Song Kran – Lived all of his 2.5 years in the forest

 It’s with deep sadness that I’m writing this, our two and a half year old male calf, Song Kran, passed away yesterday, 10 January. He got a hold of some very toxic pesticides on Sunday, 6 Jan which had been left out in a field in our forest. On Monday’s hike it was a call for alarm when he defecated blue liquid. His owner’s wife and daughter were there checking up on him, which was quite an unusual thing for us to see being that GVI’s group and the mahouts are always the only ones out with the elephants. After asking some questions, Song Kran’s mahout took me down the hill to where they had covered up an empty bottle of paraquat dichloride. The owners and mahouts had known at least a full day before we did. This pesticide is so toxic it had been banned in the states for some time, but has more recently been allowed back in.

A vet arrived around 7 pm Monday evening. Song Kran was given fluid intravenously while we waited for a truck to transport him and his mother, Boon Jan, to the hospital. The truck arrived around 11 pm and after a stressful (for lack of a more adequate description) two hours of forcing them to board, departed for the hospital around 1 am. I went with vet and the two elephant owners, Pattie Mokah and Pattie Pommie to the government run hospital in Lampang, an hour outside of Chiang Mai. We arrived around 7 am Tuesday morning. I was able to be with the two elephants, sleeping right beside them, all day Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The vet woke me at 1 am Thursday morning telling me I needed to say goodbye to Song Kran. Shocking after hearing the doctors tell me all of the previous day that he’s “not good, not bad”. The vet showed me pictures of what he had passed in his faeces, an image of indiscernible internal organs. That pesticide shut down his kidneys, liver then nervous system, burned his mouth and esophagus and entered his lungs.

With his loyal and loving mother, Boon Jan
I was with him and his mom from 1 am until 9 am; the time he went. The vets do not practise euthanasia so they gave him morphine drips for those 8 hours. It was heart wrenching to see him fight, he should be so proud of himself. Boon Jan is my hero, she was at his side every moment of these past few days, tenderly touching him with her trunk and legs, I never once saw her sleep. Any time they put food down on the other end of the enclosure she’d drag it over to be near him while she ate.  Understandably she is not doing well, the whole week has been inexplicably traumatic for her and she’s been severely affected.The vets want to wait a few days before she endures the seven hour journey in the truck back to the village. She will hopefully return home to the forest and the rest of the herd on Sunday. I will keep everyone updated upon her return back to the village. Out of respect for everything she’s been through I believe she should have lots of recovery time without any visitors. 

Jill Walker, our regional director, has set up a fundraising page for donations in memory of Songkran.  The page can be found here:  This money will go directly to the following;

                                                                                                            Witnessing all that I have this week I realise the urgency for changes to be made within the village and the project. First, we need a clinic in the field along with 1st aid medications. This will include a truck loading area in case we need to transport any of our other elephants to receive medical care. Second, we need introduce a project dealing with education and alternatives to pesticides. This has been a  priority for me that I have already spoken about to the chief of the village. A few weeks ago I contacted an organisation that has successfully worked with other hill-tribe villages in this area helping to promote the use of natural pesticides and sustainable agricultural practises. I’ve asked for their assistance and have invited them to visit. They’ve responded by letting me know that they’ll be in touch with any ideas they have for collabouration. A few weeks ago I also found and visited a distributor of natural pesticides. Now is the time to act rather than wait, like I have been doing. Realistically we need to provide our village with alternatives and methods rather than hoping that they will make the right decision amongst themselves. Like most of the world they may continue to choose the cheap, accessible and easy (albeit effective) ways if we don’t become proactive first. Lastly but most importantly our mahouts and elephant owners need adequate training on elephant medical care and first aid response from trained professionals. Keeping in mind that they are the elephant experts in a traditional sense, with modern introductions to their traditional ways like, for example, needing elephants to board trucks, they need expertise from other locals on a more thoughtful, effective, humane way of handling elephants. With their agreement we will have locals with just as much, if not more, elephant knowledge and experience, come and work with the villagers and traditions to introduce a more humane way of thinking in regards to elephant management. This will help us to ensure the safest, most effective and least harmful practises are carried out for all involved – keeping in mind the high intelligence and sensitivity of elephants. With your help we can move forward with these plans to make sure a tragedy like this does not happen again.

Song Kran and Pee Mai
– Nadia Khan, GVI Thai Elephants Project Manager