The philosophy at Burm & Emily’s Elephant Sanctuary is a simple one; let elephants just be elephants. Located in the scenic Mae Chaem district of Chiang Mai, the sanctuary is home to elephants who have been rescued from unethical elephant camps or the logging industry.
Burm & Emily’s Elephant Sanctuary (BEES) offers a safe haven for elephants allowing them to live in a natural environment where they can forage for food, bathe and socialise. Free from the burden of work and unedifying performances, the elephants can simply be elephants.
Burm and Emily
Established in 2011, the sanctuary is named after the founders; Burm Pornchai Rinkaew and Emily Rose McWilliam. Emily was still a teenager when she travelled to Thailand from Australia in 2009 and witnessed the harsh reality for some elephants working in tourist camps. She was particularly saddened by the number of elderly elephants working for the gratification of tourists and vowed to do something about it. True to her word, Emily soon relocated to Mae Chaem in Chiang Mai and in 2011 co-founded BEES with her Thai partner, Burm.
Emily and Burm are both well-qualified to look after the elephants in their care. Emily studied Captive Animal Management at Taronga Training Institute in Sydney and Burm studied tourism at Rajabhat University in Chiang Mai. The Thai man has a special bond with Mae Chaem. He grew up here and he continues to be passionate about supporting the local community.
Working with the local community
Many of Burm’s relatives still live in Mae Chaem and accommodation at the sanctuary has been constructed with the help of Burm’s father and people from the village. In addition to the local people permanently employed at BEES, the sanctuary also employs local villagers on a part-time basis when construction or additional maintenance work is required. BEES supports local businesses including massage shops, restaurants and handicraft suppliers. Fruit and vegetables are purchased from local growers and this provides a valuable source of income for farmers.
Burm and Emily have been proactive in protecting the forests in the Mae Chaem area. With the help of visitors to the sanctuary and local schools, thousands of trees have been planted as part of an ongoing project to preserve the forest.
In addition to the elephants that the sanctuary cares for, BEES provides a home to a number of rescued cats and dogs. BEES have also established a domestic animal outreach program within the local community. The program provides sterilisation programs and general care for local animals in need.
Recognising the importance of the next generation, BEES works hand-in-hand with local schools. Through their clean-up days, volunteer work and English language lessons, BEES is an integral part of the Mae Chaem community.
Visit Burm & Emily’s Elephant Sanctuary
As BEES rightly say on their website, the elephant situation in Thailand is a complex issue. The fallout from the Covid pandemic has added to the complications, but through it all the sanctuary strives to do what they can, when they can. The ethos of Burm & Emily’s Elephant Sanctuary is to allow elephants to simply just be elephants. Visitors to BEES can be assured that the revenue from travellers directly helps the elephants.
The sanctuary is located in the picturesque Mae Chaem district of Chiang Mai around 2.5 hours drive south-west of Chiang Mai city. To find out more about the wonderful work of Burm & Emily’s Elephant Sanctuary, see the links below:
BEES on Facebook
BEES on Instagram
All images shown here are from BEES Facebook page
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