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KANOON THE ELEPHANT - A Rescue Journey Filled With Challenges Yet Triump Prevails

First of all, I’m absolutely stoked to see our 1st elephant rescue, Kanoon the elephant, featured on The Dodo even though the story is bittersweet; it’s absolutely amazing! But I must say, getting involved in buying the freedom of an elephant, especially a bull elephant, has been by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.

Kanoon’s elephant rescue mission actually began long before we started to raise funds. It actually all started because we had to step in and do something as we could not walk away from him. And despite already seeing it then that this rescue would come with a few challenges. We went ahead anyways.

Meeting Khun Chayanan In Chiang Mai - unchained elephants

April 2023: How It All Started

It all began in April 2023 when someone reached out to me, asking if I knew of an elephant in need of rescue, as he had the means to rescue one. That’s when I contacted Khun Chayanan, a local animal activist, to see if she knew of any elephants in dire condition and in need of urgent help.

Khun Chayanan is known for unraveling the plight of elephants in Thailand and always speaks out for elephants in need, those that are mistreated or abandoned. A few days later, she brought Kanoon’s case to our attention, and I passed the case on to the person who initially inquired. However, he mentioned that he would prefer to rescue a baby elephant. We realized then that no one was coming for Kanoon. So, we discussed Kanoon’s case with my wife, Susan, and Vicki, and quickly concluded that we had to step in.

Defying Doubt

We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Kanoon was a bull elephant, and it would be our first elephant rescue ever. With no track record, people could be skeptical about our project. We didn’t even have a place to relocate and unchain Kanoon once we accomplished the necessary funds. Not to mention, we didn’t even know how or what we would need to execute to be able to rescue and relocate an elephant, and not just any elephant, a bull elephant. But we went ahead with the rescue regardless. Come to think of it now, it’s crazy (in a spectacular way) that this all happened.

Cristina's Compassion

As favour would have it, we were lucky to have met Cristina Palacio half a year earlier, in November 2022, when we went to check out the elephants’ health at Khao Sok. We had the chance to learn more about elephants through her and Steve from Elephant Care Unchained. Steve, from the USA, travels around helping elephants with foot care, while Cristina works with different ethical elephant sanctuaries around Thailand.

At the time of Kanoon’s case, Cristina was in Chiang Mai, so I consulted with her to verify the information and to check up on Kanoon. A few days later, she confirmed that Kanoon was indeed living near a garbage dump in Chiang Mai in very poor conditions. And so we went full steam ahead. The entire team prepared everything needed to launch Kanoon’s rescue mission and ensure its success. We curated the NFT collection, built a website, created videos, and established crowdfunding methods to allow people to get involved in the NFT project and rescue without having to dive into the crypto world. The idea behind the crowdfunding was not only to raise funds but also to provide a solution to those who wanted to contribute and help them set up and claim their NFTs afterward.

Finding A Home For Kanoon The Elephant

A couple of weeks later, we decided to travel up to Chiang Mai (using our own pocket money) to meet Kanoon’s owner and to see Kanoon’s condition for ourselves. This was when we discovered that the owner was in debt due to the pandemic and that Kanoon’s living condition was way worse than expected. The owner couldn’t put Kanoon to work as there was no tourism, so the only option he had was to sell or send him into the logging industry (I know you’re probably wondering why didn’t the owner just give the elephant away to a sanctuary for free? Well, elephants are a big business in Thailand, so there’s no way they would give it for free, but that’s a whole other blog post).

Where Were We Going To Relocate This Bull Elephant To?

While the rescue campaign was running, the next question was: where do we relocate Kanoon to? Sending him to just any elephant camp wasn’t an option; it had to be an ethical sanctuary. However, there weren’t many available in Thailand. Once again, Cris helped us secure a sanctuary for Kanoon, which was no easy task, as there are not many genuine ethical sanctuaries in Thailand, especially ones able to or willing to care for bull elephants. So, we began to push the sales of the NFTs to raise funds for Kanoon’s freedom. As we are not a foundation, we sold NFTs (or as you would call them, expensive JPGs) and received other contributions.

Overcoming Setbacks

Midway through the campaign, after raising 40% of the required funds, we received some bad news: the initial sanctuary backed out due to issues and lacking the necessary facility for a bull elephant. So, once again, the question arose: “What are we going to do now? Should we just give back the money to the supporters or keep going?” After several discussions with the team, we decided to persevere.

We couldn’t turn our back on him, knowing we were literally his only hope. We knew, one way or another, we would make it happen.

While searching for a sanctuary to take Kanoon in, the campaign continued slowly. Raising funds without a “proven record” as we are relatively new is hard, but luckily we had Vicki as a partner, and that’s when an amazing person came along, Karl. He helped us with a good amount of money to complete at least 70% of the funds. We still didn’t have a sanctuary by then yet, but fortunately, with Cristina’s help (once again) and after a few back-and-forths with other sanctuaries, and with 85% of the funds raised, BLES Sanctuary confirmed that they would provide a home for Kanoon, which was one of the biggest reliefs possible as Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary (BLES) is one of the best ethical sanctuaries in Thailand, no doubt.

The rest of the story is captured in the video. This rescue has been the hardest and most rewarding experience of my life—a true rollercoaster of emotions—but we did it! A HUGE THANKS to everyone who contributed to this successful rescue.

In Memory of Kanoon

PS: Kanoon was donated to Bles Sanctuary, and we did not make any money out of this. As a matter of fact, it cost us our time and money as well, but we will do it again if needed, 100%.

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