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On December 12th, 2023, a bittersweet day for us at Unchained Elephants. Marking not only a triumph in successfully unchaining and relocating Kham Phaeng, a resilient 54-year-old female elephant but also serving as the anniversary of Kanoon’s passing. Kanoon will forever hold a special place in our hearts, and as we celebrate Kham Phaeng’s newfound freedom, we also remember and honor the memory of Kanoon. This blog, crafted just for you amazing people, will cover the inspiring rescue story of Kham Phaeng. So, grab a cup of coffee (or tea), settle in, and let’s dive into a journey filled with emotions, stories, and the incredible support that made our second elephant rescue mission possible.


It all began on November 3rd, 2023, when Unchained Elephants and the Somboon Legacy Foundation united in a shared mission to rescue Kham Phaeng, a 54-year-old female elephant enduring a life of suffering within Thailand’s tourism industry. Despite facing various obstacles, both our organizations worked determinedly together to initiate and execute this challenging rescue mission. Driven by the shared goal of unchaining Kham Phaeng from the cruel bonds of chaining, starvation, and health issues, we needed to raise $28,286 USD. The objective was to secure her freedom and relocate her to a safe haven, providing the urgent care she desperately needed.

Kham Phaeng: A Tale of Resilience Amidst a Lifetime of Suffering - Mission Against Time

Kham Phaeng’s distressing story came to light through Dr. Chayanan, a dedicated local Thai animal activist. She alerted us to an elephant trekking camp in Pattaya, where several elephants were suffering, including one in particularly dire condition – Kham Phaeng. As soon as we heard about Kham Phaeng, Somboon’s team promptly investigated her case. A week later, Daniel and Vicki joined the effort. What we saw at the site left us all utterly shocked; Kham Phaeng was found chained both front and back legs, visibly emaciated, almost toothless, and struggling with feet issues.

‍The grim reality of her situation, discovered in that deserted location, underscored the urgency of the rescue mission. Kham Phaeng’s plight served as a poignant reminder of the widespread challenges faced by elephants in such exploitative environments. The immediate action taken by our team, inspired by Dr. Chayanan’s advocacy, set the wheels in motion for a rescue operation that aimed to bring an end to Kham Phaeng’s prolonged suffering.

Unchained Elephants' Bittersweet Triumph: Our Second Elephant Rescue

When we started this rescue mission, we knew it wouldn’t be easy. Mainly because, when we were raising funds to rescue Kanoon, it took us 45 days to gather the necessary funds to secure his freedom. Fast forward to Kham Phaeng’s case, and the stakes were even higher. We faced the challenge of securing her freedom by the 5th of December, leaving us with only 32 days to make this mission happen. Together we all decided it was possible, and so we went for it.

On the 12th of November, our journey took an unexpected turn when we received the most heartbreaking news – Kanoon, our first rescued elephant, had passed away. It was the toughest week we had to go through, and despite this loss, our commitment to the cause remained resolute, though it was not easy. On December 4th, a pivotal moment arrived when we realized that we could make Kham Phaeng’s rescue happen. With unwavering determination, all three organizations involved were set to rescue and relocate Kham Phaeng on December 12th. The journey, though marked by its challenges and grief, symbolizes our unwavering commitment to ensuring the well-being of these majestic beings, embodying the spirit of collective action and compassion.

Despite not fully completing the funds needed for Kham Phaeng’s rescue and relocation, we went ahead. The remaining funds, primarily allocated for logistics, were anticipated to be covered during the rescue and relocation days.

Kham Phaeng's Journey to Freedom: A Unified Rescue Mission

On December 11th, three teams, with people from different cities. Team 1: Daniel, Susan, and Damien made their way a few days earlier from Phuket to Pattaya. Team 2: Vicki, Imogen, Som, and O all flew together on the 11th from Phuket to Pattaya. And last but not least Team 3:tThe Somboon Legacy Foundation team made their way from Kanchanaburi to Pattaya. All ready for Kham Phaeng’s rescue and relocation journey.

‍On December 12th, we all started very early in the morning, and we strategically divided into two. One team handled paperwork and transfer of ownership at the authorities’ offices, facing some conflicts along the way.

At the same time, the other team got ready for the relocation, gathering important supplies like food and ropes for Kham Phaeng’s relocation trip. By noon, we faced the significant moment of loading Kham Phaeng onto the ambulance truck. Since she hadn’t been on a truck for 10 years, we anticipated this could be a challenging moment. While she initially resisted, she eventually decided to gracefully enter the truck with the help of her previous owner calling for her from inside. Surprisingly, it only took 30 minutes. The most remarkable part was that as soon as she got onto the truck, her frantic swaying behavior stopped! It was incredible!

During the five-hour drive to Kanchanaburi, Kham Phaeng changed. She stopped swaying and was really enjoying her food, indicating an improvement in her well-being. This was noteworthy because, typically, transportation tends to stress elephants, leading to a loss of appetite. However, Kham Phaeng defied this expectation. There were no words to describe this.

Kham Phaeng's First Moments at Somboon Legacy Foundation, Unchained & Free

At 8:03 pm, after a long seven-hour drive, we arrived at Somboon Legacy Foundation in Kanchanaburi. This was the moment we had all been eagerly waiting for! Kham Phaeng hesitated to step off the truck backward; instead, she preferred to gracefully walk forward and witness her new home. Once on the ground, she immediately began exploring, extending her trunk to smell her surroundings. It became evident that she was checking out her new environment, perhaps searching for other elephants. Satisfied with her exploration, she headed straight for the amazing buffet sponsored by Coffee Culture’s community and prepared by Somboon Legacy Foundation volunteers. This was a big day for Kham Phaeng, marking the start of her new life.

So here’s a huge thank you going out to all of you, our community who supported us in Kham Phaeng’s rescue, as we could not have done it without them. To those who stood by us, you know who you are. This was a monumental day for Kham Phaeng, marking the start of her new life, and it was all possible because of everyone working together. And so our second elephant rescue mission was a success.

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