Pages Menu
Categories Menu


The Life of Siam

siam_memoryThis page is dedicated to the life of Siam and tells her life’s story. Siam was one of the first elephants EleAid rescued. She sadly passed away on 13th June 2005.

She was dearly loved and will be deeply missed.


Siam 1965-2005

Siam was born in the north-eastern Thai province of Surin in 1965. Her original name was Pang Sompong. She was renamed after EleAid rescued her in 2003. Her mother was owned by members of the Kui tribe who as well as carrying out transportation duties around local villages was hired out for use in ceremonies and festivals. As a young elephant, Siam would have accompanied her mother on these occasions and it is probably these early encounters with people and crowds that gave her the confidence and coolness she showed in later life.

Details of her early adult life are sketchy but it is likely that she continued the family tradition of attending festivals and working in the logging industry.

Like many of Thailand?s domesticated elephants, Siam?s life changed dramatically for the worse in 1990. In the wake of the logging ban, thousands of elephants and their keepers found themselves out of work. Siam?s owners had no option but to take her to the cities and tourist districts where she walked the streets begging for money and food.

Street life for elephants is incredibly harsh. Siam would have spent 12 hours every night walking from one entertainment stop to another, being forced to perform ridiculous tricks for a few rotting bananas. During the days she would bake on shadeless rubbish dumps trying to rest among the detritus of urban life.

She endured this torment for over a decade.

Siam’s life changed in November 2002 when EleAid’s Charles Begley and Rachel Jones discovered her at the Surin Elephant Roundup. They were looking for two elephants to join the ?Bring the Elephants Home Campaign? and fell in love with Siam at first sight.

The following month Charles and Rachel purchased Siam and on the second of January took possession of her in the old Thai capital of Ayutthaya, where they began the long trek to her new home. Joining Siam was another Surin elephant, Thai. On the journey they formed a lifelong friendship. Cool, reliable Siam became the undisputed leader of the duo, always taking the lead and remaining calm in times of crisis. Every night Siam stood guard over her friend so that Thai could lay down and sleep.

Eventually the two friends arrived at their new home, the Elephant Nature Park in Mae Taeng. It was the start of a new secure life but there was so much to learn. It appeared that both elephants had never bathed in a river before and both were very circumspect at the new experience. It took Siam many months to get used before she was truly comfortable in the river.

She had also never been in hill country and was very suspicious on her first trip up to Elephant Haven. Feeling and prodding her way up the mountain path she was a slow climber and never really felt comfortable in the hills. Over the last two years she was excused mountain duty and stayed on the flat land at the Park with her inseparable friend, Thai.

Siam loved the Park and was often to be found loitering around the main hut in the hope of picking up the odd titbit. Along with Thai, she always tried to be first in line at lunchtime and could wolf down enormous quantities of fruit. She spent virtually every minute in the company of Thai ? they were truly soulmates. Many people will remember the great vocalisation displays the two regularly performed – putting their trunks in each others mouths and squeaking and trumpeting the joy of their friendship.

Siam was always a reliable elephant which made her perfect for visitors to the Park experiencing the thrill of bathing an elephant or riding bareback for the first time. She brought great joy to many of the Park?s guests and will be fondly remembered by them all.

Siam fell ill in May 2005 and suffered a terrible reaction to her initial treatment. She was given the best round the clock care and it appeared for a time that she was making a recovery. Sadly it was not to be and despite titanic efforts by Lek and her team at the Park, Siam passed away on Monday 13th June.

She was a wonderful elephant and taught us so much. We deeply loved her and Siam?s passing will leave a gap that will be impossible to fill.

1st June 2005 – Siam Critically Ill

EleAid has received some terrible news from the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand. Siam one of the elephants we rescued from street begging in 2003 is critically ill.

She collapsed in the mud wallow and a crane had to be brought in to lift her out. Vets from the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre in Lampang were called and diagnosed a case of severe blood poisoning. She suffered an acute reaction after being treated with an IV drip and huge doses of antibiotic, Her lower body and three of her legs have swollen to dangerous proportions.

Lek and her team are doing all they can for Siam. She is being held on her feet by a hoist that has been constructed specifically to stop her from lying down. This is because it is very dangerous for elephants to lie down for long lengths of time ? they can suffocate and their heart can slow down so much that it just stops. Her legs are being massaged regularly with gallons of cream and she has round the clock attention. Initially the other elephants were kept away in case her condition was contagious. The lack of company sapped her strength and for a number of days she did not eat. However, since Thai and Max have been allowed to be near her she has rallied and has started feeding again.

Her condition is still highly critical but it is improving. We all pray that she will continue to shows signs of recovery and pull through.

We will update you when we have more news.

June 13th 2005 – Siam Passes Away

It is with very heavy hearts that we bring you the deeply sad news that Siam has passed away.

Siam was taken sick three weeks ago. She had collapsed in a mud wallow and a crane had to be brought in to lift her out. Vets from the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre in Lampang were called and diagnosed a case of severe blood poisoning. She was given medication and put on an IV drip but suffered a severe reaction to the treatment. Her lower body and legs swelled to dangerous proportions and a special hoist had to be constructed to hold her weight.

Siam was pronounced critically ill and since then Lek and her team have given her 24 hour care. A specialist vet from the Thai military was brought in and attended Siam every day but the cost of the treatment began to mount alarmingly. EleAid launched a special appeal to help pay for equipment and medication. Our members and supporters responded magnificently with some exceptionally generously donations.

Over the last week the news had begun to look more encouraging. Some of the swelling had been drained and she was starting to look more her old self ? paying more attention to things around her and looking brighter. We began to believe that she would pull through.

On Sunday Lek let her lie down for 30 minutes to rest after which she wanted to get back to her feet and with the aid of the pulley paid for out of the EleAid donations the team were able to help her stand. This was a very encouraging sign but Monday after being allowed to lie down again she refused to get up. The team tried all they could to get her back on her feet but Siam refused to help and they were unable to lift her. It appears that the suffering was too much – she had fought for as long as she could.

Siam passed away on Monday morning and was buried later that day after a full Buddhist ceremony.

Everyone at EleAid is devastated by the news. Siam was a special elephant to us all ? along with Thai and Max she was the reason we founded EleAid. Our thoughts at this time are with Lek and the team at the Park who tried so valiantly to save Siam’s life. However most of all our hearts go out to Thai, Siam’s inseparable friend who has lost her elephant soulmate.

Rest in Peace dear friend ? you’ll always be in our hearts.

June 9th 2005 – Siam Rallies

We have had some very good news from Lek at the Elephant Nature Park. Siam is making good progress and has started her long road to recovery. Another vet has been to examine her, confirming reports that she had an adverse reaction to the IV drip that was inserted into her after an initial infection.

A harness and pulley system has been designed and built by volunteers at the Park which will allow Siam to finally lie down and get some rest. Everyone involved is caring for her around the clock. Thai and Max have stayed loyally by her side and she has someone with her 24 hours a day. She has started taking a much greater interest in what is going on around her and is interacting more positively with people. Her appetite is recovering and everyone is now much more hopeful.

We are still appealing for funds as she has a long way to go before she is fully recovered and with medical treatment costing over ?100 a day, donations are the only way that Lek can afford her treatment.

We would like to thank everyone who has donated so far. Without these donations, Siam may not have survived. We would also like to say a big thank you to Lek and her team of volunteers, whose 24-hour care has also ensured Siam’s survival.

March 2005 – Stubborn Streak Strikes Again

Siam’s mahout was ill and unable to work for 5 days. Siam found herself being cared for by a mahout she was not used to. Using this to her advantage, she decided to show a side of her that has only been seen once before – during another bathing session! Whilst all of the elephants were being led down to the river for bathing, Siam (who is not so keen on bath time) decided that she was not going. She stood rigid and would not move despite all the bribes being given to her. In the end, fed up of all of the fuss, she turned her back on everyone. The other elephants had nearly finished their baths when Siam decided that she would venture down to the river. She had a good drink, a quick wash and then a really good dust bath.

February 2005 – A Friend Indeed

Max has been in musth for two months now and despite the fact that his mahout Karl cannot get too close and other elephants won?t go near him, two elephants have stood by him throughout. Thai and Siam have been by his side since he first went into musth. Both elephants have lost some weight, as they would not eat because Max would not. For a while he would not let any other elephant near him but slowly another elephant at the Park started to gain his trust. Son Boon was becoming a frequent visitor to Max and neither Thai nor Siam liked this. This visiting soon turned into a long stay ? forcing Thai and Siam to watch from a distance. All the two elephants could do was call to Max hoping that they would once again become his chosen allies. Sure enough this has happened. Son Boon had to leave Max as her family needed her. Thai and Siam are back with Max and all three are very content to spend the days together.

September 2004 – Two’s Company …

Siam and Thai have begun to understand the old saying ?two heads are better than one? as they jointly put on quite a show for Max. They can be heard squeaking and trumpeting in front of him every day and often parade in front of him. He is beginning to show an interest, but it has taken a long time to get him to notice them. Since Siam has arrived in the Park she has shown an interest in most of the male elephants and has decided that Thai can help in her pursuit of Max. She is clearly very happy here and by showing an interest in the males suggests that she is thinking about having a baby. Fingers crossed!

July 2004 – Siam shows her stubborn side

As reliable as Siam is, she is prone to be a little stubborn, especially when it comes to bath time. Bathing at the Park can be a frenetic affair. There are babies larking about, adult elephants lounging around, and volunteers and mahouts desperately trying to get their elephant clean. While most elephants love bath time, Siam feels insecure- particularly if there are many elephants surrounding her. She would much rather stand and have a drink. One particularly hot day, all of the elephants were enjoying their daily bath when suddenly Siam panicked and in her hurry to get out of the river, she knocked another elephant over ? Som Boon. There was uproar, elephants trumpeting, babies squealing and Siam just stood at the riverbank with her back to everything. Things calmed down very quickly, but nothing would tempt Siam back in to the river. She was much happier on her own grazing. Later that day, she was taken back down to the river with just Thai for company and actually lay down for a good wash.

April 2004 – Siam Loves Mud

April in northern Thailand is the hottest time of the year. Much of the vegetation is brown where it has been scorched by the sun. It is not only the plants that suffer, the elephants at the Nature Park also feel the effects of the heat and elephants, just like people can get serious sunburn.

Much of the time they stand beneath the trees or specially constructed sunscreens, which protects them from the sun but limits the grazing and browsing that they are able to do.

Siam has worked out the ideal elephant solution to this tricky problem ? suntan lotion factor 5000! It doesn?t of course come in a bottle but is nature?s own in the form of a beautiful mud bath and Siam loves them.

There are several mud pits in the park and as soon as Siam is clean after her bath in the river she visits trundles off to the mud. She dips in her trunk and scoops up huge pile of mud which she then throws all over her body. She covers not just her back but her sides and stomach and continues until she is coated several inches thick.

Dirty but super effective and no sunburn for Siam!

September 2003 – Another Boyfriend!

Unbelievably, Siam is at it again this time with another male. The old warrior of the herd, Boon Khum has taken over as Siam’s new courting partner. He is past his prime now at 54 years old and has suffered an appalling life, but before falling prey to poachers several years ago he had a huge pair of tusks. It would be fantastic if they could produce a baby!

The fact that Siam is openly courting male attention is a good sign that she is happy at the Nature Park and content enough to want to have a baby.

She seems to prefer the company of Thai and the attentions of the male elephants to the herd’s other female members. Perhaps this is because the herd was already well established when Siam arrived and has another matriarch. Siam is a natural leader, and she may feel a little out of place in the herd’s social structure. This self-imposed exclusion does not seem to bother her. She is an independent and confident character.

April 2003 – Boyfriend

Siam has started courting with a young bull elephant at the park called Pooky. He is a fine bull tusker but only young, just 21 years old to Siam’s 38! He has already fathered one very healthy baby elephant with another female at the park.

We were lucky enough to view an extraordinary act. Pooky was in the middle of mating with Siam, (a remarkable enough sight) when a very jealous Thai came charging in, trumpeting, stamping and pushing to break them up!

February 2003 – A New Home

The trek ended prematurely on 31st January and Siam journeyed the rest of the way home by truck. We were not able to get a lorry big enough to take both elephants together so they travelled in separate vehicles. Throughout the trip Siam was constantly sniffing the air with her trunk to seek out the scent of her pal. Elephants have a very strong sense of smell.

After many hours, the two elephants finally arrived at their new home by the Mae Taeng River. After the long journey they were a little subdued for a day or so, but they soon began to settle in. The Nature Park is a haven for elephants with plenty of natural forest to browse and a clear running river for a refreshing bath. To begin with, Siam was very nervous of going into the river – after years of city begging she was used to bathing with buckets of water or a hosepipe. It did not take her long to adjust – piped water is no substitute to being able to fully submerge in clean water.

Another novelty for her was walking up and down hill. Both Bangkok and Surin are flat and Siam acted as it she had never climbed a hill in her life. She was very wary and moved very slowly always testing the ground in front of her with her trunk before taking a step. Of course she soon got used to it.

Siam met all the other elephants at the park and they all seemed to get on well although Siam still stayed close to Thai. When the mahout (elephant keepers) went to look for them in the jungle they were often found together cramming their mouths with vegetation.

Siam looked a very happy elephant in her new home.

January 2003 – Bringing the Elephants Home

The Bringing the Elephants Home Campaign was designed to publicise the plight of the Asian elephant with regard to both the threat of extinction in general and the conditions of street begging elephants in particular. Siam was one of the project’s two elephant members and the plan was to undertake a 3-month journey across Thailand to the elephants’ new home.

The was designed to publicise the plight of the Asian elephant with regard to both the threat of extinction in general and the conditions of street begging elephants in particular. Siam was one of the project’s two elephant members and the plan was to undertake a 3-month journey across Thailand to the elephants’ new home.

The campaign had to be cut short by a month, but in that time, by living with her 24 hours a day Chas and Rachel were able to get to know Siam very well. She proved herself to be an excellent, steady and reliable elephant, always leading and looking out for her soul mate, Thai. We later found out that Thai was pregnant, which may have explained why Siam often stood a lonely vigil a tnight, standing guard while Thai slept.

Over the month, the combination of the exercise gained in walking every day and the provision of much better food saw Siam rapidly gain better health and a renewed vitality. She visibly looked a happier elephant.

The team only walked in the mornings when it was cooler and the two elephants would shriek and trumpet with joy when they knew we would be finished for the day. They were both very vocal, especially when they were happy or got excited.

The two elephants became very close as the trek progressed. They often gave each other reassuring strokes with their trunks and even put the tips of their trunks in each other’s mouths. This is the highest form of trust between two elephants and clearly demonstrated their enormous affection for one another.

Part of the daily routine was to visit schools and community centers to show the Thai people their national animal. The trips caused huge excitement but Siam was calm through it all and happily let children touch, feed and even bath her. It seemed that as the month wore on she grew more trusting of people and clearly recognised that her circumstances had changed for the better.

December 2002 – Frustration

Siam wouldn’t have known about it, but it was a month of frustration trying to get the official papers to allow her to move to the northern province of Chiang Mai and take part in the conservation awareness and educational project organised by members of EleAid.

November 2002 – Discovered by Members of EleAid

Every year around August and September, Siam would return with her mahout to Surin Province. Almost all the city begging elephants hail from Surin and many returns at this time of year during the rainy season. It is the only period when there is enough natural food available for the elephants. Only a hundred years ago, the region was covered with thick forests where wild elephants lived, but today the jungles have been cleared for agriculture and Eucalyptus plantations.

Every year around August and September, Siam would return with her mahout to Surin Province. Almost all the city begging elephants hail from Surin and many returns at this time of year during the rainy season. It is the only period when there is enough natural food available for the elephants. Only a hundred years ago, the region was covered with thick forests where wild elephants lived, but today the jungles have been cleared for agriculture and Eucalyptus plantations.

Most of the elephants stay in the Province for the famous elephant round up – the world’s largest annual elephant festival. Many local and foreign tourists come to for the three-day event and it is the one time of year that the elephants can earn a good living.

Chas and Rachel found and fell in love with Siam and her soul mate, another begging elephant called Thai. Siam was so solid and calm, unfazed by all the noise and crowds at the festival. They were able to approach and touch her and feed her huge bunches of sugarcane, on which she munched happily.

Poor Siam was due to return to Bangkok in just a few days and touched by her situation, Chas and Rachel decided to buy her and give her a new home at the Elephant Nature Park. Within a week they had concluded negotiations and paid a deposit. It would take a while but Siam was on the road to a new life and it was going to be worth the wait!

1991 to 2002 – The Street Beggar

The Thai governments ban on logging in 1990 unintentionally led to huge problems for Thailand’s domesticated elephant. Thousands of elephants saw their livelihoods disappear overnight, and many poor families suddenly felt the huge financial burden of an elephant’s appetite. There is no doubt that Siam herself suffered, as she and her mahout are known to have resorted for much of the time to begging on the streets of Bangkok.

The urban jungle is hell for an elephant. They live on polluted patches of wasteland and often suffer gastric and respiratory problems. The detritus of city life; rubbish, broken glass and rusty cans are a minefield to their sensitive feet and cuts can lead to death from blood poisoning. At night the elephants and their mahouts beg in the entertainment districts where it is noisy, crowded and dangerous; up to 20 elephants a month are involved in road traffic accidents.

Siam endured this torment for almost a decade.

1970 to 1990 – Working Life

Details and records of Siam’s working life are very sketchy. It is reasonable to assume that for at least some years she continued the family tradition of working in festivals. That may explain why she is so calm and reliable today, she is certainly a steady elephant totally unfazed by crowds or noise.

It is also possible that Siam worked as a logging elephant. She is a big and strong female; her size and strength would have been useful in this kind of work.

1965 to circa 1970 – Early Life

Siam was born in 1965 in Surin Province in North East Thailand. Her original name was Pang Sompong until we gave her a new life in 2003 and renamed her after the old name for Thailand.

Her mother was an ex-logging elephant bought by members of the Kui tribe who were historically famous as elephant traders. Siam’s mother was hired out for ceremonies and festivals, as well as transporting goods around the local villages.

As a baby, Siam would have accompanied her mother on these tasks, joined together by a rope around her neck to ensure the young elephant would not stray too far. Siam would have been a part of the village life and quite used to having people around.

Siam’s very early life would have been fairly easy, she would have her mother to tend to her every need and would have received plenty of human attention; after all everyone loves a baby elephant! As a newborn she would have been able to stand and walk from the very beginning but would have been very clumsy. Learning to use the trunk can be particularly awkward and can take years to master.

In the wild mother and daughter elephants will stay together for may years; perhaps even for life as members of the same herd or family group. Sadly this kind of family intimacy is rarely permitted in domesticated elephants as the bond between them is deliberately broken so that the youngster can be trained for work. This process can happen from anywhere between from between one and five years, but we don’t know at what age Siam had to leave her mother or where her mother is today.

Given the long lives elephants lead there is every possibility she is still alive!