On 31 January, our team set off for a whirlwind trip to Surin with one goal: to rescue Lucky, a circus elephant who, after 30 years in the circus, was rendered blind from the spotlights and in need of a place to live the rest of her life without performing for people.
Around 6 p.m. on Thursday, staff and four volunteers loaded into a Save Elephant Foundation van and headed down south to Surin. We drove through the night and early morning, stopping briefly at the Cambodia border to leave some of our staff who were heading to Elephant Sanctuary Cambodia. Then, we continued on towards Surin.
After nearly 20 hours of driving, we arrived to Lucky’s home. We found her behind the house, on a chain, awaiting our arrival. The previous day, another SEF team (including one of our vets), headed down to examine her and prepare her for her journey home to Elephant Nature Park.
Our team of mahouts prepared the truck for her, securing logs to keep her from moving around too much on her commute. Then, an hour later, she took her first steps to freedom, stepping up into the truck bed.
We were in Surin for a blink of an eye before we turned around and began our trip north towards Chiang Mai.
We had volunteers sit shifts with Lucky, who was very calm on the truck. Along the way, we had to stop at eight quarantines to show officials Lucky was indeed Lucky, and not an elephant captured from the wild and being illegally transported.
At around 6 a.m., before the sun rose, we hit a thunderstorm, which is very unusual for this time of year. It only slowed us down a little, and soon we were out of it and trucking on.
Nearly 24 hours after we left Surin, Lucky and our team arrived at Elephant Nature Park. The drive up the main road to the park is not without some sadness. As we truck past the camps, we see the other elephants giving rides. At one point, Lucky, sensing their presence, communicates with them via rumbles.
As we drove into the park, visitors lined the feeding platform, armed with cameras. They waved, smiled and cheered as we drove her to the medical center.
Getting off the truck was as easy as it was for her to get on. Lucky turned around, facing the small crowd watching, and took her first steps at the park.
Within a few minutes, the family herd was brought over to her to meet her. Lucky stood, happy, as Chang Yim and Faa Sai took a special interest in her, touching her with their trunks and chattering to each other.
Later in the day, Lucky enjoyed some time at the river.
We are so thankful to David and Holly from Canada for their kind donation, which made this rescue possible.
Welcome to your new home, Lucky!