SAPPRAIWAN ELEPHANT SANCTUARY
Sappraiwan Elephant Sanctuary began in 2001 with six elephants that were rescued from street begging and the logging industry. The sanctuary is now home to 13 elephants, nine of which were born at the facility, making each of the elephants here brothers, sisters, aunts, mothers, and grandmothers.
The resort and the elephant sanctuary hold a unique and special relationship. Together they work to offer guests an experience in an extraordinary environment. Share time with an elephant family herd set within a jungle to watch their natural behavior.
Meet our Elephant Family
Tongpoon. The Matriarch
The herd’s fearless matriarch, Tongpoon is a confident leader and doting mother to Kaengsopa and Fahsai and grandmother to Saishon. She was born in the 1970s and worked as a logging elephant in Mae Hong Son for the majority of her life before finding refuge at Sappraiwan Elephant Sanctuary in 2001. Now, she remains at the back of the herd and trusts Sappraiwan’s other experienced female, Saitong, to lead the younger elephants through the forest. Tongpoon teaches everyone who visits the sanctuary about the compassion, devotion, and love that elephants have for each other.
Boonmee. Our Gentle Giant
There is nothing like being in the presence of our majestic tusker, Boonmee. He once spent his days and nights begging on the busy, congested streets of Bangkok with his previous owner, Boonmee now lives like the king of the forest. This bull elephant, born in the 1970s embodies the term “gentle giant.” Boonmee is calm and relaxed as he strides through the forest and observing him is a truly meditative experience. Also, Boonmee is the father of Wangtong, Kaengsopa, Sappraiwan, Tanwa, and Fahsai.
Tongtae. The Graceful One
It is astounding to see the leadership, resourcefulness, and determination that lies within Tongtae, given the traumatic beginning to her life. Born in 1999, by the age of one year old, she had already been separated from her mother and was street begging in Chiang Mai. She was one of the first elephants to join the herd at Sappraiwan Elephant Sanctuary, and since arriving and growing up at the facility, she has given birth to Gingtong and Katid. Tongtae spends her day's grazing peacefully as she watches over her two young calves playing in the mud, swimming in the pond and exploring the forest.
Kaengsopa. Queen Bee
Named after a famous waterfall in Phitsanulok province, where Sappraiwan Elephant Sanctuary is located, Kaengsopa is as beautiful and breathtaking as the waterfall that shares her name. She was born in 2003, but even though she is still young, Kaengsopa has a protective and nurturing character that she has clearly inherited from her mother and the herd’s matriarch, Tongpoon. Mother to Saishon and big sister to Fahsai, Kaengsopa is a matriarch-in-the-making and is thriving as the leader of her own mini-herd.
Tanwa. Our Playful Royalty
Tanwa’s birth was very special to Sappraiwan Elephant Sanctuary as her birthday, December 5th is one of the most significant dates on the Thai calendar - the late King’s birthday and Father’s Day. In fact, Tanwa means “December” in Thai. Tanwa shares many of the same characteristics as her mother, Saitong, and the two elephants have a very deep bond. She also loves to play big sister to Gingtong, who really looks up to Tanwa and follows her into the forest with complete admiration. We are always astounded by the maturity and sensitivity of this young leader, and while the herd of elephants roams through the forest, Tanwa is always aware of any stragglers at the back, making sure no one gets left behind.
Tongkam. Our Teenage Boy
This handsome bull, born in 2011, is quickly coming into his own. Tongkam is transitioning from the herd’s boisterous young male to an independent bull, and while he still has periods of interest in the female herd, he also seeks time alone in the forest. Tongkam’s appearance is different than most tuskers because Tongkam is missing his right tusk. He was playing with his sister, Gingtong, and their pushing and shoving resulted in Tongkam falling and breaking his tusk. Fortunately, there are no long-term medical complications associated with the loss of his tusk and we certainly hope Gingtong has since apologized to her little brother.
Saitong. The Auntie
Saitong is unmistakable in the lush forest at Sappraiwan Elephant Sanctuary. This proud mother and grandmother holds her head high and proud, with massive, speckled ears flapping as she watches over the herd. Saitong, as chief auntie, is a source of support and comfort to each of the herd’s infants and adolescents and helps the young mothers keep an eye on their newborns. She worked in the logging industry for the majority of her life, then was used for street begging on the streets of Chiang Mai before she was relocated to the sanctuary along with her infant son, Tongtang.
Tongtang. The Tusker
Tongtang and his mother Saitong were rescued from the streets of Chiang Mai and relocated to Sappraiwan Elephant Sanctuary when Tongtang was only one year old. Though he was once a small, playful calf, he has since grown into a massive tusker. Sappraiwan Elephant Sanctuary is especially proud of Tongtang’s story because so many young, captive elephants are prematurely separated from their mother, but relocating Saitong and her young calf to the sanctuary has guaranteed them both a lifetime of sharing the same forest.
Wangtong. Our Special One
Wangtong’s birth in 2003 was a reason for great celebration as she was the first elephant calf to be conceived and born at Sappraiwan Elephant Sanctuary. However, her mother, Boonma, had health complications following the delivery and unfortunately, she passed away 40 days after giving birth to Wangtong. This means that Wangtong had a very difficult start to life as elephants are usually dependent on their mother for the first 3-5 years of their life. Sappraiwan Elephant Sanctuary was able to source a special milk formula that kept Wangtong healthy and strong in her infant years. Now, Wangtong has gone on to have a calf of her own, Tongkam, and is also an auntie to several adolescent elephants in the herd too.
Katid. Our Boisterous Boy
Energetic, boisterous, exuberant - Katid is a young bull elephant who keeps the mahouts of their toes! His relationship with his older sister, Gingtong is comical to watch as it appears Gingtong loses her patience with her younger brother quite often. Their mother, Tongtae is the perfect mediator and the three of them have a deep and special bond. This young bull is at his happiest when he is face to face, or trunk to trunk, with his sparring partner, Fahsai, who refuses to back down from this tiny tusker. Katid’s tusks are coming in now, and we know that before long, he’ll be a tall, majestic tusker just like his father Tongtang. For now, the herd is enjoying sharing the duty of teaching and guiding this lively young bull.
Gingtong. The Kicker
No elephant is happier in the forest than playful Gingtong. Constantly snapping branches off of trees, splashing in the water, and coating herself with thick mud, Gingtong loves every minute she spends with the herd. As is natural for young elephants, she spends most of her time with her mother, Tongtae, but she has formed a deep bond with Tanwa and the two are very affectionate with each other. Sometimes they even leave their moms to go off on their own adventures in the forest. On the other hand, Gingtong has great confidence for such a young elephant and puts her younger brother, Katid, back in his place if he is behaving too boisterously.
Saishon. The Squeezer
Saishon is happiest when she’s surrounded by her family - literally surrounded! She has a habit of squeezing herself between her mother, Kaengsopa, and her grandmother, Tongpoon while they graze and roam in the forest. Saishon, and her aunt, Fahsai, are quite the duo and the mahouts all know which two elephants will be the first to go diving trunk first into the water. These two fun-loving elephants inject a youthful energy into the herd, and one by one, the other elephants dive in after them to join in their games. Saishon’s love for the water is not surprising, as Saishon means “small river” in Thai. Even though she’s young, she has a very maternal presence around Fahsai, so we are excited to watch her continue utilizing the skills she’s learning from her elders in the forest.
Fahsai. The Fun One
Fahsai, meaning “clear sky” in Thai, is currently the pride and joy of the Sappraiwan herd. Always following close behind her mother and matriarch, Tongpoon, Fahsai is as full of life as every baby elephant should be. She seizes each and every opportunity to cannonball into one of the many ponds around the sanctuary, and never passes up the chance to coat herself in the mud. During the rainy season, the mahouts can’t help but laugh while watching Fahsai lay on her side in the muddy puddles, rubbing every inch of her body in the cool mud. Also, though she’s normally a peaceful addition to the herd, Fahsai is known for occasionally calling out for her mother by letting out a low rumbling roar that sends the herd running towards her. It is an absolute joy to observe Fahsai, growing, learning, and thriving in a sanctuary environment.