Once, an elephant became sick and a vet in Phuket treated it but, having no experience with elephants, he overdosed it and an expert elephant vet from Bangkok had to be flown down to save it.
Thailand has very few vets experienced enough at working with elephants and if an elephant becomes very sick the only hospital is in Lamphang in Northern Thailand; at least two days' drive by 10-wheel truck from Phuket.
Mobile Elephant Clinic Project
Siam Safari contacted the Asian Elephant Foundation in Bangkok and asked if they had a mobile elephant clinic. At that time they did not so in 1995 Siam Safari donated 280,000 baht to the Foundation to help them set up a mobile elephant clinic. The clinic came to Phuket and was helpful but the clinic had to cover the whole country and did not come often and could not come immediately in the case of an emergency.
Siam Safari & Dusit Laguna - Joint Elephant Project
A project called 'Ivory belongs on elephants' was launched with the World Wildlife Fund. Schoolchildren checked all tourist shops in Phuket and if they were not selling any ivory products they were given a sticker saying 'Ivory Belongs on Elephants. No Ivory Sold Here.'
Reflective elephant leg bands were purchased and given to elephant camps throughout Phuket so they could be seen at night on the road.
Siam Safari's Mobile Elephant Clinic Project
Siam Safari recruited its own specialist elephant vet Dr. Somchai to take care of its own elephants in Phuket and Surat Thani. Also, in his spare time Dr. Somchai has treated many elephants at other camps in Phuket, Phang Nga, Krabi and Surat Thani.
Some Notable Cases Stand Out:
An elephant in Kamala cut its trunk on sharp bamboo and was bleeding severely. Dr Somchai managed to stop the bleeding and applied bandages. The elephant recovered in a few days.
The Governor of Trang Province contacted Siam Safari over a very dangerous bull elephant in musth. Dr. Somchai managed to dart the elephant and calm it down so it could be moved to a safer place.
An elephant in Krabi was near death and could not raise itself from the ground. Dr. Somchai spent the next 48 hours feeding it dextrose solution by drip (nearly 100 bottles). After three days it managed to stand and eventually had a full recovery.
In Phangnga an elephant was bitten by a cobra snake and was about to collapse, Dr. Somchai got some anti venom serum from a local hospital and after an injection the elephant soon recovered.
In Phang Nga a timber-hauling elephant fell off a truck and was badly injured. Dr. Somchai spent many hours cleaning and dressing the wounds and successfully prevented further infection. The elephant fully recovered.
This mobile clinic project was paid for mainly by Siam Safari, along with donations from people who went on Siam Safari tours.
Sadly, due to the tsunami, Siam Safari had to keep 40 elephants and their mahouts for nearly a year with out any income as hardly any tourists came to Phuket in 2005. Dr. Somchai went to work for an elephant release project in northern Thailand and the mobile elephant clinic closed down.
Siam Safari wants to start a new project to help the conservation of Thai elephants and has started its own elephant sanctuary in Mae Hong Son province. It is raising funds to help the elephant hospital in Lamphang and would like to start the mobile elephant clinic project again when sufficient funds have been saved.
It is easier to take a clinic to an elephant than to move a sick elephant. There are no government funds for this project and a budget of US$50,000 is needed to put this project in to operation and keeping it running.