From Medicine Man To Elephant Champion
Dr. Sutthi was born in Songkla province. He is a child of Chinese immigrants who settled in Phuket during the World War II and the fifth of ten children. He graduated as a physician from Prince of Songkhla University and soon after worked in Phang-nga and Phuket, and made a name for himself in his profession.
His life took a sudden turn and began to connect with elephants when his brother took over an elephant camp in Phuket. After his brother acquired the business, he got fascinated by these gentle giants and wanted to know more how they live and work in the camp. What he learned made him want to make a better place for elephants -- a home.
It was also in this camp that he met Phongsak Phalaphol, the manager of the camp.
An Elephant Camp Manager Becomes a Pachyderm Pal
Phongsak Phalaphol was born in Nakhon Pathom province but he has made Phuket his home since he was seven years old. He started to work at the age of 16 to support himself and his mother. He was appointed elephant camp manager at the age of 19 and later became a tour guide bringing tourists to elephant camps.
As a tour guide, he listened to many complaints about the treatment of elephants in the camps. This was not new to Phongsak and it was something he had always wanted to change since he started working in the industry.
Ethical Elephant Tourism
Dr. Sutthi and Phongsak share a common goal - to have a sustainable and ethical tourism where elephants can roam free, be cared for and not forced to work while providing a living for the locals of Phuket.
Phongsak then introduced Dr. Sutthi to Montree Todtan, CEO of Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, and its Project Manager at the time, Louise Rogerson. Dr. Sutthi was deeply inspired by what they do to improve the quality of life of elephants.
They advised Dr. Sutthi and Phongsak to meet with Sangduen Lek Chailert, CEO and Founder of Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai.