Elephant foundation in critical need of aid
The Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE) says it may have to close if it does not receive financial support soon.
Secretary-general Soraida Salwala said the FAE is a Thai-registered foundation that has looked after the welfare of more than 4,600 elephants in Thailand for more than two decades. It is now facing its worst financial crunch in its history.
It is best known for producing an artificial leg for the wounded elephant Motala (above) in 2006, but it has helped countless elephants before and since.
"We need financial support from both the government and the private sector to survive," said Ms Soraida, who is also the founder.
She said the foundation, set up in 1993, has encountered financial problems for more than 11 years due to falling donations.
However, she said she has put in considerable effort to maintain a normal situation until she realised she had to reveal the truth about the foundation's financial difficulties to the public.
"We don't want to create any burden as people are suffering during the economic slowdown.
"But we need help, or we will have to close.''
Ms Soraida said she had earlier asked the government for assistance in setting up an elephant fund to support any foundation that is working with and helping elephants. Up until now, she has not yet heard any response, she added.
Last Monday, which was Thai Elephant Day, Ms Soraida sent a letter to the foundation's president and committee detailing her difficulties in managing the foundation under its limited budget.
She also talked about the foundation's success in treating 4,651 elephants nationwide, together with a ban on elephants begging for food in Bangkok in 2010, and legislation governing their welfare.
She said she had carefully considered the situation and found that if the problems carried on, it would be better if the foundation closed.
She said the foundation needs at least one million baht per month to look after five elephants in the Elephant Hospital in Lampang, owned by the foundation with around 10 staff working there.
However, donations come to only 400,000 baht a month.
However, she added, the foundation's committee will discuss how to deal with around 10 million baht in its bank account, which came from donations from the public and private sector to help sick and injured elephants.
Currently, FAE is relying on the interest generated on the savings.
However, should they decide to access the balance of 10 million baht for operational purposes, the amount would be spent in a period of one year given their currently dire financial straits.