Our New Elephant Arrival in Phuket: Nong Tang Rescued!

Phuket Elephant Nature Reserve is delighted to announce the rescue of our fourth elephant! On Tuesday 5 December 2023, we welcomed the beautiful and adorable Nong Tang (nicknamed Lucy) to our ethical, accredited, and sustainable elephant sanctuary in Phuket.

Before we start the story of Nong Tang’s journey, let us introduce ourselves if you’re new here. We’re Phuket Elephant Nature Reserve (PENR), proud leaders in ethical elephant activities in Phuket

Our sanctuary is located on 30 Rai of lush jungle land, a short drive from the tropical beaches on Phuket’s west coast. The health, happiness, and well-being of our rescued elephants are our absolute priority.

This is why our Phuket elephant activities focus on observation and education. Our elephants are free to roam our land, splash in the water, and play in the mud as they please, living the kind of carefree life that nature intended!

If you have any questions about our elephants or visiting our sanctuary, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. For now, though, let us share Nong Tang’s story.

Nong Tang in the middle standing next to Bow & Thonglor

How PENR Rescued Nong Tang

Nong Tang’s story starts in Ratchaburi, around a two-hour drive from Bangkok. Here, she was chained up in a compound at the entrance to a Thai amusement park. This park offered elephant riding activities, tiger photo shows (with tigers drugged to make them docile), monkey photo shows, longtail boat tours, BB gun activities, and more. 

Unfortunately, this kind of venue operates with almost zero consideration for their animals’ welfare. Our blogs Should I Ride Elephants in Thailand? Why or Why Not? and Why Bathing with Elephants is Unhygienic and Unethical provide insights about just two sadly common activities that cause significant harm and distress to these gentle giants.

If you’re planning to visit Thailand, or you’re already travelling in our country, it’s important to not support these kinds of activities. By supporting ethical sanctuaries instead, you can play your part in elephant conservation.

At the amusement park in Ratchaburi, Nong Tang’s job was to look cute and entice visitors to spend money. For THB100, they could buy a small bucket of bananas and feed her. For the same price, they could buy permission to take photos with her. 

Nong Tang’s compound was only around 5m x 2.5m. After a long day’s work, she was chained up out of sight for the night on a very short 1 to 2m chain.

According to her previous owners, Nong Tang was no longer a cute baby elephant able to entice visitors to spend their money. We strongly disagree! You can see in her photos just how cute she is! Given that Nong Tang was also too young and too small to start giving elephant rides, her owners decided to sell her.

This is when we heard about Nong Tang’s plight, so we decided to take a look. We fell in love at first sight and immediately went to work to secure her release. Rescuing an elephant in Thailand means buying them. After negotiating and agreeing on a price for Nong Tang, we sent for the vet to give her a full check. She had a minor infection in a wound where the chain was cutting into her skin, but, fortunately, no major health concerns. 

Elephants have an ownership book, much like a car, so all parties involved in the transaction went to the nearby government office to formally transfer Nong Tang to us. We paid the money and waited for the transportation truck to arrive.

Nong Tang arriving at the checkpoint onto Phuket island

For a truck carrying an elephant at slow speeds, the journey from Ratchaburi to Phuket is around 12 to 15 hours. We use bamboo to help secure elephants during transport — and Nong Tang had plenty of food to keep her happy! She was safely on her way to Phuket’s most ethical elephant sanctuary.

Nong Tang Arrives at Phuket Elephant Nature Reserve! 

The truck carrying Nong Tang set off from Ratchaburi at around 7 pm on Monday 5 December and arrived at our sanctuary at approximately 9 am the next morning. We couldn’t have been happier to welcome the fourth member of our elephant family!

Relocation to new surroundings is a huge change for elephants, so we kept Nong Tang in her own overnight shelter so she could relax and recover. This is our practice with all elephants we rescue.

At PENR, we have massive oversized 20m x 10m shelters — some of the biggest in Thailand  — to ensure our elephants are safe and comfortable. We had our vet visit to check up on Nong Tang after her long journey. She was administered antibiotics and ointment to help with her previous infections.

Typically, rescued elephants are acclimatised slowly to their new surroundings and let out of their shelters for a few hours per day until they are comfortable. This also helps to limit negative feelings for the existing elephants who may feel threatened by a new ‘intruder’ arriving at the reserve. 

Nong Tang playing in the mud, watched over lovingly by Lotus

Not so for our beautiful Nong Tang! She immediately bonded with the other three elephants — Lotus, Bow, and Thonglor — and earned their trust. In turn, the other elephants took her in and kept a close eye on her as she explored her new surroundings. 

Elephant behaviour is simply amazing; it’s no wonder these majestic animals are considered some of the most intelligent on the planet.

Nong Tang’s physical condition continues to improve with each passing day. She is loving her new life and we are delighted to have her join our elephant family.

If you would like to support Nong Tang or any of our elephants you can visit our Patreon page. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Nong Tang exploring our 30rai sanctuary with Bow & Thonglor

Meet Our Elephants in Phuket!

Are you planning a trip to Phuket, Thailand? Or are you already enjoying our island paradise? Plan your visit to Phuket Elephant Nature Reserve and meet Nong Tang, Lotus, Bow, and Thonglor!

Browse our range of Phuket elephant activities and find out more about the amazing experiences waiting for you at our ethical sanctuary.

Do you have any questions for the PENR team? Please contact us for all the answers you need.

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