Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Carol Buckley

Carol Buckley is co-founder of The Elephant Sanctuary, and served as President and Chief Executive Officer from its founding in 1995 through 2009. She managed the care of the elephants in the quarantine facility, consulted internationally on elephant care and management, managed administrative staff, facilitated elephant acquisitions, and assisted in the development and implementation of educational programs and materials for the public. She is also a well-known speaker on elephant care and advocate for elephants in captivity.” That is a direct quote from The Elephant Sanctuary’s 2009 annual report which is in the public domain.  Like all annual reports, it’s written for the benefit of shareholders and benefactors. Who is this amazing woman? Who is Carol Buckley?

Carol Buckley, June 2010
I’ve only met her on two occasions so I’m not well qualified to answer my own question, but I have formed an opinion. She is one of the most dedicated, strait forward, intelligent people I’ve ever met! When you speak with her two things are immediately evident: She know! She cares! We spoke for a while about her life, her passion for elephants and her absolute love for her elephant, Tarra. Carol recently commented that:
"Tarra indeed is the first resident of the Sanctuary. I met her when she was one year old. Volunteered my time to care for her and then purchased her when she was 2 and a half. I founded the Sanctuary so that Tarra would have a safe and healthy place to live, especially important to me as I knew she would outlive me. Tarra is now 36. She is my mentor and the inspiration for the Sanctuary".
Carol recently founded International Elephant Aid, an organization focused on helping one elephant at a time, worldwide. Check out: and support her anyway you can. This lady is the real deal!

Traditional elephant handling and training is nothing short of brutal. Carol believes that elephants, like humans, learn better from positive re-enforcement than from negative re-enforcement. Gentle reader, if you want to know all about this topic go to google and type in phajaan, but before you go I’ll warn you it’s very hard to watch these video clips. This article is not about what’s wrong in society here or in other parts of the world, rather it’s about one woman who is making a difference.

At the Elephant Nature Park, Carol was busy training an elephant and more importantly teaching mahouts how to train elephants with positive re-enforcement. She used a long piece of straw commenting that a stick could be conceived as a weapon and the elephant could feel the tickle of the straw. Her other tools were simple gentle voice commands and bananas. The results were amazing!

No force, just gentle words and rewards

Success!  The mahouts watch and sister elephant imitates.
The next time I saw Carol at the ENP she was giving an elephant a pedicure. The elephant, had some problems with her feet. No force was used, again just gentle persuasion. Again, success. At one point the elephant decided she had had enough. Carol simply agreed and assured her patient they could finish the process another time.
The Pedicure
Carol was also present for the tree planting which I wrote about last week. See “Trees for Elephants”. She is definitely one who rolls up her sleeves and does whatever she can.

Planting trees in the rain
I shamelessly schemed to get a photograph of Antoinette, Carol and Lek together. You see Gentle Reader, as far as I’m concerned here are three women that young girls, and boys, around the world could use as role models. We agreed to do the photograph back at the Elephant Nature Park the day of the tree planting. By the time I managed to get all three of them to hold still for a minute, Carol had changed clothes. She caught a good humored teasing from both Antoinette and Lek for showing up in clean cloths It was a great moment!
Four great smiles!
My old mentor, Tony Corbell, will understand when I say that
for me this was better than photographing the Beattles!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


On July 3rd, the Elephant Nature Foundation (ENF) hosted a tree planting day, organized by Antoinette van de Water. She called it “Let’s create an elephant jungle together”.

The Elephant Nature Foundation has some beautiful land a few kilometers from Chiang Mai city known to the volunteers as ‘Elephant Heaven’. 

Some of the Thai land that I love, future home for rescued elephants

Eventually the area will be a safe haven for elephants that will have been released into the wild. A lot of work needs to be done, including replacing large areas of forest. Enter Antoinette and her tree planting!

"Let's Create an Elephant Jungle Together"
Antoinette van de Water

Many volunteers from the ENF and Bring the Elephant Home project, along with some 38 young students from the Star Fish School in nearby Mae Tang comprised the volunteer crew for this environmental event.

First there is instruction; then a demonstration

The volunteers, children and adults alike, quickly got into a rhythm. Some carried seedlings.

Team Work
 Some planted,and some put in location stakes and fertilized the ground around the newly planted seedlings. Some of the volunteers ensured the plastic wrappings that protected the unplanted seedlings were removed, leaving the newly planted area organically pristine.

Hard work; very satisfying.  One day there will be many huge trees here.

As well as the photography, I planted one tree. Maliwan commented that I’m no farmer and gently suggested my ‘skills’ might be more in line with carrying the new trees to the planting area. I agreed and made several trips to get seedlings and bring them back to the planting area.  With each trip the crew was further and further away.  Significant progress was made and now Elephant Heaven is much closer to being a reality for elephants which will one day enjoy the area as their new home.!

Antoinette van de Water
Carol Buckley
 Sangduen "Lek" Chailert.
They dedicate their lives to helping elephants
 and other abused creatures.
They are three of my personal heros!

In all, almost 4,000 trees were planted in one happy, hard working, rainy day! Everyone was wet, muddy and happy.  
End of the day, on the truck and ready to go back to the park

Some 2,000 seedlings remained to be planted as soon as possible. Since the road to Elephant Heaven was nearly impassible during the then rainy season, a 2nd planting was organized for the following week at the Elephant Nature Park. This time, 35 students from the Faculty of Agriculture, Rajabhat University came to help. The park is now even greener than before!

I should tell you, gentle reader, that there are more images and if you want to see them just go to

In fact there are photo's that will support the next two or three articles.   I'll get them written as soon as I have a few minutes; be patient.

Abundant blessings,

Jerry Nelson

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Chiang Rai - Chiang Mai; "This is a Happy Life"

Several weeks ago we were just leaving the house, on the way to where, I don’t remember. She looked at me and simply said: “This is a happy life”. We climbed on her motorcycle and went to do what ever we were doing. I keep reflecting on those simple words of wisdom.

This is a happy life” 
Maliwan Khawumphai.

Gratitude, humility, patience and acceptance are tenants that seem to come naturally to the vast majority of the Thai’s that I have met.  Me I have to work on these qualities, daily! They are all my teachers, mentors and coaches. I have an American friend who teaches English to 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade children. He talks about the joy in their little faces and the fact that they will run across the playground to say hello and even give him a hug. He doesn’t complain about the classroom not being adequate or the fact that his average class size is between 50 and 60. He just grins when he mentions that in all he has about 600 students.  He goes on about the joy of doing what he loves.

For the past month I have been shuttling back and forth between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai attending Thai language training at the Waylen School of Thai. You can see them at In the future I’ll write an article about the options In Chiang Mai & Chiang Rai. For now Walen is the best option for me. It’s about a 3 hour bus ride which gives me time to read a bit, nap a little and mull over Maliwan’s profound statement. “This is a happy life”. My life, as it turns out, isn’t always perfect. Here’s the rub, when it’s not perfect it’s only because I have declared it so. On days that I can remember to turn it over and get out of my own way, life is exactly like it’s supposed to be; that’s perfect! I thought I’d share with you a couple of happy life moments.
Wat Pra Sing, Chiang Mai Sunset
As often as not, on Tuesdays I go to a meeting at Wat Doi Phra Bat which is adjacent to the old airport in Chiang Rai. I often walk there from home, or catch a ride to the edge of the runway and walk the last half a mile or so. I really enjoy the recreation use of the old runway.   I love the recreation that goes on there.  One afternoon I stopped to watch the arobics class and a couple children came up and wanted to practice English.  I asked if I could take a photo and suddenly the two became four.

Arobics class at the old airport in Chiang Rai
And then there were four

The gate to the temple Wat Doi Pra Bhat

On the days that I’m home in Chiang Rai I really enjoy the quiet. I love to sit on the porch and study or read. Speaking of studying, did you know that the Thai word for 5 is pronounced ha? When they want to express funny in a text message or email they never use anything like LOL. They just say ๕๕๕

Chiang Mai is great also. I just moved into a place called Pachkit House. They are at
I’m inside the old city within an easy walk to my Sunday meetings, Waylen school, the ENF office and just about everything I would want to do or see.  One of my favorites is the Sunday night walking street.  There's always something new and exciting to see, taste, buy and of course photograph.

Close pin art at the walking street in Chiang Mai

I’ve made a couple of trips to the elephant nature park since I last wrote in this journal. In my travels I’ve met some exceptional people and learned a little bit more about these wonderful creatures. 
Valerie & Lek

Kai & Stephanie
Look for a few more articles very soon, all will be about the elephants and their plight!

Abundant Blessings,