Environmental enrichment is the process of providing stimulating environments for animals in order for them to demonstrate their typical/natural species behavior; it can include the introduction of food related items such as like puzzle feeders and hidden food and to get the food the animals have to work and use natural foraging behaviors.
What GVI have provided for our three youngest elephants (Pbee Mai, Mario, and LuLu) are puzzle feeders. Three large blue barrels were purchased and each barrel has a different pattern of holes drilled into the sides. The purpose of the holes are for the elephants to figure out a way to maneuver their trunks in through the holes as a way to reach their food; instead of having food set out right in front of them. One of the barrels has rope twisted around the top of the barrel and the rope serves the same purpose as the holes drilled in the sides. As of now, only two calves have a barrel each day; one of the barrels is being saved to be filled with popcorn.
Eventually, the plan is to add more, and different, types of enrichments for the calves to use while in the village. What is beneficial about this new project is volunteers have the opportunity to come up with ideas that could potentially make a difference on Pbee Mai, Mario and LuLu and an unexpected benefit of the enrichment for the calves is the extra interaction volunteers get with them.
Volunteers are collecting data on the enrichment where three times a week, they are allocated an elephant to watch for one hour and recording any stereotypical behavior they elephants are showing and timing how long it lasts for and timing how long they are not showing signs of this behavior. Intensity of the stereotypical behavior will also be recorded and volunteers will be watching and recording how the elephants react without enrichment to enable the results to be compared.
Thank you for your continuing support for this project
GVI Chiang Mai Team
Fantastic news! Recent donations from supporters like you have helped us to pay for Mario, a 4 year old male elephant calf, to stay in the forest surrounding Huay Pakoot with his own mahout for a period of another 6 months up until the end of 2013. The breakdown of $300 per month covers the cost of leasing Mario from his owner and a monthly salary for his local mahout, named Suhweet.
This donation allows Mario to live as a free elephant in the village of Huay Pakoot and the surrounding forest, spending his days foraging and playing with the other elephant calves in his herd rather then spending his days performing and giving rides at the elephant tourist camps around Chiang Mai.
The monthly salary and the lease of Mario provide 2 local villagers (his owner Sinchai and his mahout Suweet) with a monthly income for supporting elephant conservation and alternative livelihoods. They benefit by also remaining in their own village, with their family and friends and able to help their family with daily tasks and child rearing.
Mario is part of the Huay Pakoot Community Conservation Group which is focused on developing sustainable elephant tourism by allowing tourists to visit the elephants in their village and see them live in their natural habitat as well as utilize local homestays, eat local foods and learn about local Karen livelihood. Mario also brings the possibility of other villagers bringing in income through these endeavours.
Mario was born in the elephant camps of Chiang Mai as his mother, Sun Jap, has been a working elephant for many years. Nearly 2 years ago, their owner Sinchai, decided to bring these elephants out of the camps and back to the village in order to work towards his dream of developing sustainable elephant tourism in his village. In the meantime funding is required to help keep Mario and his mother and the other elephants in the village in order to develop these sustainable initiatives and conservation efforts
A big thank you to all of our donors and volunteers that work to contribute to this project.
Assistant Director of Programs
As Singto is joining the GVI mahout team with his elephant, Khum Suk, in June 2013, training was provided for Singto to get some hands on medical training with elephant vets at the Thailand Elephant Conservation Center. Mahouts in Karen elephant raising villages often learn from the elders and use traditional methods of elephant care and remedies for treatment. Although these methods are helpful, sometimes more advanced medical intervention is needed and it is important that mahouts have exposure to both to properly care for their elephants, particularly in such a remote setting.
Capacity building is an important part of GVI’s work in local communities. Funds earmarked for this purpose will go towards providing mahouts and elephant owners with training opportunities to better their understanding and abilities to provide excellent care for their elephants. The training opportunities also expose them to the bigger picture of elephant care and conservation in Thailand allow them to learn from area professionals.
We hope this report finds you well. The biodiversity project is officially up and running on the Thai Elephant Reintroduction Project in Huay Pakoot. The main focus of the project is elephant reintroduction into the surrounding forests, but establishing the local biodiversity is of equal importance to conservation of the surrounding area. Proposals Submitted for camera traps to be purchased and placed in the forest in order to capture nocturnal and allusive wildlife. The funding was approved in January and the cameras are scheduled to arrive within the next few weeks. GVI will work with the local villages who are keen to help place the cameras in prime local wildlife hotspots.
In addition to the camera traps, night hikes commenced on the 16th of Jan and are a now a weekly activity; guided by one of the very experienced locals who brings a wealth of information to the local biodiversity. Each hike lasts approximately roughly 2 and a half hours covering dense forest and waterways.
The night hikes provide the opportunity for volunteers and staff to experience the forest in a completely unique way. The volunteers have enjoyed the hikes deeply; eye shine has been spotted for either a giant black squirrel or flying squirrel and barking deer. Animals encountered include amphibians, the same sleeping bird on each hike and the illusive porcupine tracks.
Other opportunities to look for biodiversity include an alternative hike to the elephant hike on a Wednesday morning. This involves either hiking to the caves or along the river, giving volunteers a chance to see a different part of the forest and look for biodiversity in new areas. Birds and insects have been spotted. Volunteers are now encouraged to actively identify all species spotted on all hikes (including ele hikes). They are also encouraged to partake in bird watching before hikes. Establishing the local biodiversity of the local area gives the project a unique opportunity to observe the wealth of wildlife which inhabit the densely forested area, and can greatly contribute to the long term sustainability of the forest.
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I hope that everyone had a fantastic new year and I wish it was with better news that I am writing the first report for our Thailand Elephant project in 2013. We have some new initiatives we wish to move forward with following a tragic accident on the project, for which your past and hopefully, future donations will be much needed. Whilst this is a long report, we wanted to give you as much details as possible, as without your support, we are unable to stop these incidents happening.
Our two and a half year old male calf, Song Kran, passed away on the 10 January. He got a hold of some very toxic pesticides on Sunday, 6 Jan which had been left out by locals in a field in our forest. On Monday’s hike it was a call for alarm when he defecated blue liquid. After asking some questions, Song Kran’s mahout showed the GVI team an empty bottle of paraquat dichloride. This pesticide had been banned in the United States for some time, but has more recently been allowed back in.
A vet arrived around 7 pm Monday evening. Song Kran was given fluid intravenously while we waited for a truck to transport him and his mother, Boon Jan, to the government run hospital in Lampang, an hour outside of Chiang Mai. The team arrived around 7 am Tuesday morning. However, the vet woke our Thai Elephants Project Manager, Nadia at 1 am Thursday morning to say goodbye to Song Kran. The pesticide shut down his kidneys, liver then nervous system, burned his mouth and oesophagus and entered his lungs. Below is an excerpt from Nadia:
It was heart wrenching to see him fight, he should be so proud of himself. Boon Jan is my hero, she was at his side every moment of these past few days, tenderly touching him with her trunk and legs, I never once saw her sleep. Any time they put food down on the other end of the enclosure she’d drag it over to be near him while she ate. Understandably she is not doing well, the whole week has been inexplicably traumatic for her and she’s been severely affected. The vets want to wait a few days before she endures the seven hour journey in the truck back to the village. She will hopefully return home to the forest and the rest of the herd on Sunday. I will keep everyone updated upon her return back to the village. Out of respect for everything she’s been through I believe she should have lots of recovery time without any visitors.
Funds donated to this project will go directly to the following:
With your help we can move forward with these plans to make sure a tragedy like this does not happen again. We appreciate that this is very upsetting news for many people, especially those who have volunteered with GVI in Thailand and personally knew Song Kran. We are all mourning him. Thank you for reading this long report and please do get in touch if you have any questions.
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GVI Charitable Trust Manager