The stunning Rio Restaurant at the Rati Lanna Riverside Resort and Spa was the scene of the delayed Skål Chiang Mai meeting. Postponed from October due to the passing of His Majesty the King, the meeting was held on Wednesday, November 16, 2016.
The meeting started with President Tim McGuire of Old Chiangmai welcoming everyone to the meeting. He announced that the Christmas Gala Fundraiser had been postponed until January 26, 2016 at Le Meridien Chiang Mai out of respect for the 100 day mourning period for His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
He then welcomed Alan and Aom Ashton back from Canada in time for the cool season here and Nima Chandler of Nancy Chandler’s Maps to the meeting. He also welcomed General Manager Mr. Vinai Chitaratsanee and Mr. Theeraphong Jittalatsanee of Suriwongse Hotel Chiang Mai. Khun Vinai is offering special benefits to the hotel on the Skal Chiang Mai page; http://skalchiangmai.com/about
Membership renewal is up and members will soon be receiving a reminder in their emails about renewing their memberships. In other Skål Chiang Mai news The Service 1921 and The Restaurant at Anantara Chiang Mai Resort have won the coveted Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for their amazing wine list. Kudos to General Manager Syahreza Ishwara and his team.
In sadder news in the past months former Skål Chiang Mai member Andrew Bond was killed in a tragic accident, Skal Chiang Mai sent their condolences to his wife Maneerat Bond and donation was made on behalf of Skål Chiang Mai to support his children. Condolences also to Marc Dumur, Skål Member and Past President on the recent death of his father, Frank Dumur-Schumann as well as to Skål Chiang Mai local members Frank and Vanita Sethi on their recent family losses.
Vice President Annette Kunigagon then took the microphone to announce the opening of the new Northern Thai restaurant Euang Kam Sai and then Manaswat “Kim” Chutima of Old Chiangmai explained that the restaurant is aiming to offer a unique Northern Thai experience, offering many unusual dishes on the menu that are not often found in restaurants. She added that the restaurant will be offering seasonal variations based on local ingredients and invited everyone to come and give it a try.
Then the speaker, Carmen Rademaker of the Naka Foundation took the floor and said she was going to explain a bit about what the Naka Foundation was trying to do and then showed a short video on the work being done to create sustainable, safe tourism for elephants. “There are no simple answers,” she said, “no black and white. People need to deal with reality and the reality as it is.”
She talked about the overseas animal rights groups that think all elephant camps should be banned and elephants put in sanctuaries but she pointed out, for one thing elephants live in related herds, with a matriarch and most of the herd related to each other. Putting a number of unrelated elephants together can lead to major issues and fighting between the elephants. She also pointed out that elephants in the wild will walk for up to 80 km a day, in a sanctuary they are in a very small space in comparison. Also she pointed out that elephants are very intelligent and can get bored. Additionally, many elephant tourist destinations have people feed the elephants bananas, melons and sugar cane; the junk food of the elephant world.
She added that in an ideal world elephants would be in the world but it is not an ideal world and elephants have been in domesticated use in South East Asia for 4,000 years. She said the problem in Thailand lies in the fact that there are no standards in place for elephant tourism; the elephant is classed under the Beast of Burden Act or Livestock Act and is not protected under that law, it is private property. A group of elephant experts are working on getting the elephant reclassified as well as instituting standards on care, work, mahout training and elephant training. She pointed out that it is in the best interest of elephant camps and parks to be certified, it shows that they care for their elephants in the correct way and that many have shown interest in obtaining such certification.
“This needs to be solved in a scientific way based on the real world” Carmen pointed out, “Not with emotions and unrealistic expectations.” As one person pointed out, “It is a nice idea to have them in the wild but what wild will they be going to? Their habitats are almost completely gone.” Carmen mentioned that of the 5,000 elephants left in Thailand less than half are in the wild and they face poisoning and accidents as people encroach on their habitats. “They have to cross a busy highway to get to another forest, for instance” Carmen noted, adding that the recent incident where a bus hit an elephant was simply because that elephant was trying to cross to another area to feed.
The discussion was lively and interesting and guest Max Arora told Carmen he really appreciated her talk adding that it had changed his mind on the entire elephant discussion currently going on in the community.
After the discussion everyone retired to enjoy the incredible buffet and churrasco grilled food. The staff was called out after the meal and a certificate presented to Ken for their wonderful service and excellent food. As always, the evening at the Rio Restaurant exceeded expectations.
A reminder that the Skål Christmas Gala has been postponed to January 26, tickets are on sale at Old Chiangmai or from any committee member. Also donations are being sought for the silent and live auctions, please contact President Tim or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more.