Since our last update, we have been busy bees trying to get our beehive project at Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary started.
In June last year, we visited Phu Luang Wildlife Sanctuary in Loei province where the DNP (Department of National Parks) have already set-up a beehive fence that they have opened to the public to teach about the fencing, and demonstrate how it all works. We asked a lot of questions and learned a lot from the team that day. They where very helpful and welcoming to us and agreed to visit our site, once we where ready, to do a work shop with our community to start off our first beehive fence.
Once they had answered all of our questions on the beehives and had shown us through how it all worked, they offered to take us on a hike through their National Park to look for traces of wild elephants. It has been reported that Phu Luang Wildlife Sanctuary is home to up to 100 wild elephants, how could we refuse! The national park was actually closed to outsiders during this time due to the rainy season, so being the only visitors and being given a guided tour through the park with the rangers who know it best was incredible. We didn’t see any wild elephants (they where most likely asleep during that time) but we did see plenty of traces of them and saw some wild deer too!
We then returned back to our village armed with all our answers and a proposal for the community. We held a village meeting to talk everyone through what we had learned and find out if there was any interest in taking on this project. This meeting was vital as if the community showed little to no interest, then that would have been the end as working together with the village is one of the main goals of this project.
We started by explaining the main benefits of the project; an extra income for them by selling the honey, with no expense from them, in exchange for them taking care of the beehives. This might seem like an easy feat, but experience has taught me that bringing new ideas to a very traditional village, especially as a foreigner no matter how established you are, doesn’t always bring results. We then explained the type of area we would need to start; a field with no pesticides that is on the edge of a forest and where we can plant flowers for the bees to thrive. Thankfully we where pleasantly surprised with the amount of interest, at least four families where interested in setting this up with us!
As a community, we then decided who’s field would be the first to be set-up, and after a bit of discussion, the village choose one family to start – Tawahbah’s family. This family have a field just up from our base hut where they would like to set it up, which seemed like a good idea to us so that we could closely monitor the beehives too.
That was settled, the next thing on our agenda – funding.
Thailand Elephants were all very keen to help push this project forward and help with funding any way they could. They set-up a fundraiser page and have been selling beehive packages to help get some money our way. Meanwhile, I was also applying for grants and have managed to secure some funds from the Chiang Mai Citylife which helps support charities every year from the profit driven by their annual fair.
Whilst we where applying for funding, Tawahbah and his family got to work to get the field ready by taking out all of the weeds and preparing for flower planting. One of Tawahbah’s sons, who goes by the name of Book or Pah Sue to the local people, has been especially helpful and became our main point of contact for when we needed the family’s support for anything.
Once the field was ready, we then moved onto the next stage – flower planting. We had a very short amount of time to plant the flowers, rainy season is the only time of the year when the ground is soft and has enough moisture to grow anything relatively easily and rainy season was already starting to come to an end at this point. As we had not yet received any funding into our account, we used funds from our foundation account to buy flower seeds – sun flowers, basil, and anything else we could get our hands on that the bees would enjoy. We got Book and all of our volunteers together to get planting.
Next came a bit of a waiting game to see how the flowers would grow, all seemed to be going well and we even had beautiful sun flowers popping up.
Then disaster hit in the form of a four legged animal – cows! Cows had gotten
into the field and had destroyed our weeks work in a couple of hours grazing. We then worked as quickly as we could to plant new seeds but dry season had already arrived.
We have been making sure the planted area is watered everyday but, as of yet, our flowers have not been sprouting as much as we would have liked. We have about another 4 months of dry season left and will be monitoring growth over this period and replanting once the rains arrive if necessary.
The set-up for our beehive project is taking longer than expected but great things take time and we are excited to get started once nature allows it!