By Natalia Lima
Two sanctuaries in Thailand are improving the quality of life of their elephants by installing solar powered corrals that allow the animals to roam without escaping into neighboring villages.
Friends of the Asian Elephant and Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary (BLES) are both working with Elephant Aid International (EAI), an American non profit dedicated to ending suffering of elephants worldwide, in installing chain-free corrals for its 17 elephants.
“Chain free corrals improve elephant welfare,” explains EAI’s founder and CEO Carol Buckley. “Elephants are migratory by nature, walking 10 to 30 miles a day. Captive elephants are usually afforded no opportunity to engage in this natural behavior so essential to their well-being. Living chain free, elephants experience autonomy, many for the first time in their captive lives.”
The current alternative to most elephants in captivity is to be shackled by the legs so they do not escape and raid the neighboring villages’ crops, leaving the animals exposed to the sun for long hours and unable to move more than a few inches in either direction.
The corrals being installed consist of four metal poles and a thin horizontal wire linked to a battery back-up solar powered energizer that emits a sound proven to keep wild elephants out and captive elephants in. Three hours of sunlight keep the energizer running for a whole week, which allows the corrals to be installed in the most remote of areas.
“So far we have cleared a path through the forest and set the support posts for four corrals,” explains Buckley who is in Thailand overseeing the installation. “We are now working on grouting the post for a fourth corral. The local crew of 8 are doing a fabulous job. They are learning a new skill making them the first crew in Thailand to learn how to build our solar powered chain free corrals.”
EAI has been installing chain free solar powered corrals since 2012, when it installed its first in Nepal. The project was so successful that the country decided to work with the nonprofit in transitioning all of its 15 elephant facilities into chain free corralled areas. A total of 63 elephants benefited from the projects and there are possible plans of beginning similar work in Sumatra in the near future.