Donations pour in to elephant foundation

An online plea for financial help by Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE) has brought in 20 million baht in donations in the past few days, leaving its founder "speechless" with relief.

Soraida Salwala, the secretary-general of the foundation, revealed the news on her Facebook page, saying its Kasikornbank account balance had reached 21.33 million baht, compared with just 1.38 million last Monday.

The association still has to wait until Monday to update its balance at Siam Commercial Bank.

"I am speechless, there are only tears in my eyes," Ms Soraida wrote as she thanked all the people who have contributed to help the foundation to continue operating.

The foundation, set up in 1993, has been encountering financial problems for more than 11 years because of falling donations

Ms Soraida said the foundation needed at least one million baht per month to look after five elephants at the Elephant Hospital in Lampang, owned by the foundation with around 10 staff. However, donations had been averaging only 400,000 baht a month.

The foundation has succeeded in treating 4,651 elephants nationwide. It also campaigned successfully  for a ban on elephants begging for food in Bangkok in 2010, and for legislation governing their welfare. Its office, including the world's first elephant hospital, is situated in Hang Chat district of the northern province of Lampang.

After hearing this week that the FAE was in danger of having to close, some celebrities donated money and others took to social media to encourage public support.

Kiat Kitcharoen, an actor and a television host, wrote on his Facebook page to urge Thai Beverage Group (ThaiBev), controlled by billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, to assist the foundation.

ThaiBev is best known for its Chang (elephant) beer.

“The appropriate person that should provide support to the foundation is Beer Chang, which is prosperous because of the elephant," he wrote. "When the elephant is in difficulty, Beer Chang should allocate 1-2 million baht a month (if possible) to help."

Mr Kiat said he hoped his public request would be heard by Mr Charoen. He also urged the public not to oppose assistance from ThaiBev to the foundation just because it is an alcoholic drink producer.

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