Decades-long commitment to elephants: Bodo Jens Förster and all the employees of Elephant Special Tours have been advocating for the well-being of these majestic creatures for many years. Visitors from around the globe have experienced the fascination these wonderful animals evoke. Here’s an overview of various stages, and there’s no end in sight
Bodo Jens Förster was responsible for the elephants at the Berlin Zoo from 1987. This is where he acquired fundamental skills in handling these gentle giants, and his fascination for these majestic creatures began to grow.
Pure fascination: Elephants of Asia
With the opening of the Berlin Wall, a new chapter began in Bodo's life. He traveled to various countries in Southeast Asia, always with the goal of encountering elephants and learning as much as possible. A particularly special experience was his visit to Thailand's most sacred elephant in the presence of King Bhumibol.
Founding of Elephant Special Tours
With a globally unique concept, the Thai company was founded: experiencing elephants individually for several days, riding through the forests on them, and truly getting to know them - something that had never been done before. Our guests become part of the herd and learn everything about our elephants and the culture in which they grow up.
View of the Lodge "White House"
Many years, the morning view from our base, the legendary 'White House' lodge, with its spectacular view of the local rice fields, was the starting point for our elephant tours. In 2020, the much-loved house had to be demolished due to its deteriorating condition.
School project in the mountain village of Pamon
In the Karen village of Pamon, we have used a portion of our earnings to build a small school. Many children in this area are unable to attend school daily due to distance or their parents' low income. With the assistance of the staff from the 'King's Project' in Mae Sapok, we were able to realize our project.
Elephant camp in the forest
Our elephants live in the forests of the Chiang Mai mountains. Between 2003 and 2014, reaching the elephants was an adventure in itself. After a 30-minute off-road drive followed by a 20-minute hike, one arrived at a picturesque gem - our old camp. A natural swimming pool, vast forest areas for feeding, and the absence of any civilization invited both humans and animals to dream.
Children painting for us
The local school in Hoi Pong is collecting donations for the construction of an access road and a parking lot for the school buses that transport the children to and from school daily. We've also contributed with a donation.
As a token of gratitude, the students from grades 6 and 7 painted our old property wall with fantastic elephant pictures.
Lifting elephants with Sri Chinmoy
Among many highlights, the visit of Guru Sri Chinmoy stands out. During a spiritual tour for world peace, he visited our elephants. Additionally, a lifting mechanism was built for the wise man, with which he managed to lift the young elephant bull. Breathtaking.
Didi - a friend that is forever remembered
Didi was, alongside Bodo, the key contact for our guests for many years. Whether during the unique elephant treks, where we brought the elephants to their home villages, or during numerous cultural excursions, Didi always had a witty comment. He remains in all of our hearts.
Tong Bai - A tragedy and its consequences
Dancing competion in Mae Sapok
This year, we supported girls aged 12-14 with outfits and the entry fee for the dance competition. To the delight of our guests and employees, they occasionally practiced for their big performance at our lodge.
First family starts living in our camp
We aim to provide our elephant handlers, or mahouts, the opportunity to live together with their families in our elephant camps. Previously, these young men lived together and shared a house. Due to the nature of their profession, the mahouts need to live in close proximity to their elephants to regularly provide them with food and water – an obstacle to starting a family and living together with their wife and child.
In January 2012, the first family house was built in our camp. We are delighted to offer our mahouts the chance, as the first camp, to merge family life and their profession.
A beautiful elephant day for orphants
Shining children's eyes and lots of fun and joy, Natalie and Marius were able to bring to 20 orphaned children. With a lot of heart and commitment, they organized a children's day on a Sunday in October, where the little guests traveled from a children's home in Chiang Mai. For most of the girls and boys, it was their first contact with the gentle giants. Accordingly, the mood was joyful and cheerful, as can be easily seen in the picture.
Support of the local kindergarden
At the local kindergarten in 2015, 38 children from surrounding villages are taken care of. The respected educator, who playfully teaches the children their first numbers and letters, was at risk of being transferred to another region at the beginning of the year. Due to lack of replacement an imminent closure of this important institution was feared. Since then, together with other supporters in the area, we have been covering the salary of the educator, and we are delighted that she can continue to teach the children in our village.
Building the Vet Point for elephants
Together with the Tong Bai Foundation, we established a Vet Point (veterinary station) that is not only accessible to our elephants but to all elephants in our valley. In the case of minor injuries and illnesses, a veterinarian from the state hospital can visit us, treat the elephants on-site in a suitable environment, thus avoiding the need for transporting them by truck to the distant hospital in Lampang.
Collecting trash in Mae Sapok
During our elephant treks through the mountains, we often notice a significant amount of litter accumulating along the roads and in the forests. Due to a lack of awareness, there are issues regarding waste management and general recycling practices in the region. We have taken it upon ourselves to set a good example for the community by collecting litter during our tours and walks with the elephants. In doing so, we aim to raise awareness among the local population about waste disposal while contributing positively to nature.
Creating soil out of elephant dung
Elephants require enormous amounts of food, with an adult elephant consuming up to 250 kg of food per day. Despite their constant feeding, these magnificent creatures are never truly full. They are also inefficient in digesting their food, with approximately 60% of their daily intake converting into elephant dung. This presents us with a challenge: what to do with all this waste?
To address this, we've chosen to create rich soil from the dung using compost heaps. The resulting soil is then provided to local farmers, ensuring nutrient-rich soil for a variety of agricultural products. It's a collective effort towards sustainable cultivation.