Saying goodbye to Mae Boon Hai

“Mae Boon Hai” If you had ever, for once in your life, met Mae Boon Hai, you would understand her majesty and resilience. From her first steps, you had a sense of her strength, although her exterior looked weathered. Never did we imagine that she would, in the fullness of time, take her place as the matriarch, leading 9 young elephants in her herd. Mae Boon Hai was rescued from an illegal logging trade in Phang Nga province situated in the South of Thailand. Logging is defined as the activity or business of felling trees and cutting and preparing the timber. Elephants are often used to carry the fallen timber. In 1989, logging was illegalized. Although illegal, logging still happens in several parts of northern Thailand.
Mae Boon Hai came to us weak, sick and severely dehydrated. Her skin would flake off when you rubbed on her, and an ulcer grew under her cornea. She was also severely underweight. Her bones were jutted out beneath her dry and flaky skin, scarred due to the effects of years and years of labour and sun exposure. It would take our team months to nurse her back to health.
The decision to move her to Chiang Mai was a carefully calculated one. In retrospect, we were too optimistic. Mae Boon Hai would eventually heal. But her assimilation into the social structure of the herd in Phuket posed a challenge to us, but mostly to her. After careful consideration, we decided to move her to Chiang Mai where we hoped that she would find her forever home.
It took her roughly 30 days to find her social status within her new herd. With a group of younger elephants, Mae Boon Hai eventually took her natural place as the matriarch of the herd and boy would she lead. She would be known, before her passing as the matriarch that took the helm as the matriarchal head of the herd for the next 2 years until the sorrowful time of her passing.
Her illness came quick and unexpected. Mae Boon Hai had been ill but it had never been to the point where the team was expecting anything serious. Her blood work always looked (not good) but passable. Never in our wildest dream did we expect that a fall would have led to something as her eventual death.
Today, we honour her by remembering her strength and her silent resilience. Little by little, we begin to remember not just that she died, but most importantly, that she lived. And that her life gave us memories too beautiful to forget.
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The Matriarch Project