PERREAULT Magazine September 2014 - Page 37

The story follows the cases of three elephants and their re-adaptation process : Nong-Mai, a young street-begging elephant; Tawan, a tourist elephant; and Sisakorn a wild young bull whose mother was killed by poachers. Their stories bring attention to the plight of endangered Asian elephants and the severe threats they face from poaching, mistreatment in captivity, and habitat loss. Through reintroduction these elephants re-learn how to communicate with each other and form social bonds just like wild elephants. Once back in the forest, these elephants quickly re-member their vital role in the forest ecosystem.

Yet the true measure of success of the Foundation's work comes early one morning when a long-awaited baby elephant is born - the first baby elephant born in this protected, vast forest habitat to previously captive elephants who have naturally mated in the wild. Filmmakers Patricia Sims and Michael Zo Clark waited almost two years to document this momentous event. The early days of this baby elephant's life are a symbol of hope for the future of the endangered Asian elephant and also an important reminder that time and space is running out for this mag-nificent creature with whom we share this planet.

For the past four years Canadian filmmaker Patricia Sims has been working on her passion project the non-fiction feature film Elephants Never Forget to bring awareness to the plight of the endangered Asian elephant. Joining Patricia in the project is her long-time colleague, cine-matographer and editor Michael Clark. Independently funded, Elephants Never Forget is cur-rently in production, filming on location in Thailand. Funding is still required for the completion of the film.

During the course of filming Sims was introduced to the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation, a unique Thai non-profit organization that releases captive elephants back to the wild. It was thanks to a young elephant named Nong-Mai, an elephant unfortunately used for street-begging in Bangkok and the focus of the Elephant Never Forget story. Nong-Mai was acquired by the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation and now roams free as a wild elephant in one of the Foun-dation’s vast forest sanctuaries.

In cooperation with the Royal Forestry Department, the Foundation manages three vast wild forest habitat sanctuaries in Thailand where captive elephants are released. In 2002 the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation was formed as a Thai NGO, and since that time they have successfully released over 90 elephants back to the wild. Asian elephants are excellent candidates for a wild reintroduction program such as this for they are released into vast pro-tected forested areas that are natural elephant habitat where wild elephants once roamed. Less than 100 years ago, Thailand had over 100,000 Asian elephants. Today, there are less than 4,000 (approx.1,200 wild and 2,800 captive).

From Patricia Sims:

“Asian elephants are an endangered species. Yet, our relationship with them is perhaps more complex and profound than the bonds we have with any other animal.

My passion to understand the dynamics of the human-elephant relationship has led me to its mecca - Thailand. At a time of rapid social change in this human-elephant heartland our cam-eras are bearing witness to the challenges that modern society imposes on captive elephants - their mistreatment at the hands of humans, the threats of poaching and the loss of natural habitat where wild elephants once roamed. “

Patricia Sims and Michael Clark's forthcoming feature-length film Elephants Never Forget is now in post-production in Thailand.


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