Michelle Reedy was in management before she decided to follow her true passion with animals. After going back to college and pursuing animal studies she soon got a position at Melbourne Zoo and worked there for 9 years becoming a senior zookeeper.
Ewa Narkiewicz is a photographic based artist, with a degree in Fine Arts. She also has a history major from her Bachelor of Arts.
No strangers to big changes in their lives Michelle and Ewa travelled to Thailand for the first time in 2000 where they visited several elephant camps and decided that the Royal Elephant Kraal was where the action was. They were very impressed by the work and vision of the owner Mr Laithongrien Meepan and his commitment to saving elephants in Thailand. They returned several times over the next few years including a six month stint when Michelle was the recipient of an Alfred Dunbavin Butcher scholarship from Zoos Victoria, to learn Thai techniques in working and training elephants. Of the many projects undertaken by the Kraal one had been on Laithongrien’s mind for a few years. Retiring old elephants yet still giving them an income and people to care for them has been finally realised with the Elephantstay project.Michelle and Ewa have sold most of their worldly possessions and moved to Thailand to manage this project.
“Although I worked with 19 elephants in the 6 months I was here in 2004-5 to gain as much experience as possible, Dok Mak was my first elephant and I cared for her the entire time, she remains my favourite, as her gentle yet strong personality gave me immense pleasure and taught me a lot. Most people who see her large bulk instantly assume she is pregnant and I have to continually reiterate 'No, she is 78 years old and just loves her food, although she still enjoys the company of the biggest and strongest bulls' If you really want to make a difference to any species the most effective way is to work in their country of origin."
"Watching a newborn elephant calf take its first steps is an awesome and inspiring sight. The way the entire village rallies around to help the calf and the mother and be a part of each new life reinforces how elephants unite a community. The mahout is always so proud. I would love to share the joy of this event with people everywhere it truly is fantastic. And with 36 babies born in just 9 years and many elephants pregnant it is a definite possibility!"
Buddy the stumpy tailed cattle dog was snapped up at the Lost Dogs Home in Melbourne. He is the expert in getting people to love and adore him and has proven his popularity and many talents by already appearing on Thai television swimming and playing football with the elephants.
Buddy says "Pat me! Love me! Have you got anything to eat?!"
Little Girl was a stray at the Elephant Kraal. She is now a happy, healthy dog and Buddy's girlfriend. Sweet natured and pretty she loves joining in with everybody and being part of her new family.
Little Girl says "I love canned dog food and fish heads!"
Michelle, Ewa, Buddy and Little Girl are delighted to have this opportunity to share this fantastic experience of a lifetime.
OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS
Munchy the cat was caught falling from the top of the cupboard when he was only 2 days old. His mother showed no interest in looking after him so he was hand raised by us and lives with his adopted family. Munchy loves being inside plastic bags. Buddy and Little Girl protect him from the other stray cats and dogs he may encounter, sooo cute!
Munchy says "I can help in the office"
Boonlua is a wild macaque. Attacked by dogs lost both legs and one arm. He now would not be able to survive on his own. Fortunately he has adapted to his new home and friends and is healthy and happy.
Boonlua says, " I love Michelle and Ewa because they feed me interesting food like rhinocerous beetles and avocado"
Sock is our one eyed squirrel. She was found on the ground, and as we could not return her to her home she was hand raised.
Sock says "I love playing on my jungle gym"
Hero is our tookae that has been living in our bathroom since end of 2006. So named as he eats the spiders I dont particularly want making a home in bathroom! Recently there have been some other tookaes hanging around, I think he has a new girlfriend!
Hero doesnt say much at all, he is all action, copulating and populating at a great rate.