It is not every day that one meets an expat woman who has decided to settle in Thailand and dedicate herself to this country’s most revered creature – the elephant! But that’s exactly what Michelle Reedy has chosen as her mission in life.
Born in Melbourne, Australia, Michelle spent her early years working in retail. But her real passion was animals, so in order to find suitable work she returned to the classroom to acquire a degree in zoo keeping. She spent the next ten years at Melbourne zoo looking after various animals, though her dream was to care for elephants, but no such position was available for her at that time. Michelle first learned about the elephants of Ayutthaya in 2001 when the Melbourne zoo was trying to acquire some of these amazing animals. This immediately spurred her interest and she wasted no time coming to Thailand on an exploration trip to study the opportunities of working with elephants.
She continued to visit annually and in 2006 Michelle eventually found employment in Ayutthaya’s Royal Elephant Kraal village (established in 1996) to work with Khun Laithongrian Meepan whose family was planning to set up a program for retired elephants, which meant creating a system suitable for these aging pachyderms.
“Wondering how an Ayutthaya family became interested in caring for elephants, I was told that they bought a young elephant for their daughter’s fifth birthday 25 years ago, and soon realized that elephants need space, an area of their own,” explains Michelle.
“Ayutthaya is historically and culturally connected to elephant rearing and training, evidenced by the old kraal structure – kraal is a Dutch word for corral – that still stands at the northern edge of the city. Caring for elephants was in a way continuing the old tradition of this city-kingdom.”