Knebworth five-year-old’s bid to save flood stricken elephants

WHILE most five-year-old girls wish for Santa to bring them a host of toys for Christmas, one youngster is hoping for another extra special gift this year.

Tiny Immy Gildersleeve is calling on Times Territory residents to help back her bid to save the lives of 90 elephants, who are suffering badly following massive floods in Thailand.

The Knebworth youngster is no different to others her age, she loves glitter and princesses.

However, after she was taken to Thailand for a once-in-a-lifetime holiday, she came back with an utmost love for the world’s largest land animal.

The trip was paid for from Immy’s beloved Auntie Mellie’s inheritance. The journey was focused to help Immy grieve for her aunt, who she was exceptionally close to.

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It worked as when Immy and her mum, Sarah, set off to the Elephantstay program in a small village just outside Ayutthaya, the youngster instantly struck a bond with a 67-year-old elephant, Sinuwan.

“It was love at first sight. This grand old lady aged 67 seemed to sense that Immy needed special attention,” said Sarah.

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After a couple of “amazing” weeks at the sanctuary (where volunteers look after herds of elephants), Immy learnt husbandry and safety rules, while riding and getting to know many of the elephants.

She cleaned and fed them, played games with the babies, and soon formed a permanent grin and was giggling and loving life again.

This was a drastic change to what Sarah had seen in Immy before the trip.

“Immy began to exhibit typical signs of a child who had suffered loss. She was anxious, withdrawn, tearful and not the happy-go-lucky little girl she had been.

“Despite plenty of expert advice, Immy remained sad,” Sarah added.

“I can only thank the village for giving me the real Immy back; the sunny, cheery, inquisitive Immy.”

When Immy returned home, she told everyone tales of her adventures with Sinuwan and elephant facts such as “elephant poo and wee don’t smell”.

Disaster soon struck, though, as news arrived that a flood had devastated the Elephantstay park, and all 90 animals and their carers were homeless.

Now, it’s Immy’s mission to repay Sinuwan to help by raising money for food and care.

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