This month began the new Biodiversity Assessment Surveys. The purpose of these surveys is to gain a better understanding of what wildlife exists in our forest, especially as the surrounding area hasn’t yet been studied. The forests in Northern Thailand were once rich in biodiversity; unfortunately, due to the human impact on the environment, this has decreased mainly due to settlement, agriculture and hunting. Northern Thailand is still very much an under researched region, giving us an ideal opportunity to perhaps either discover new and rare species, or animal behaviors. A long-term aim is to educate the villagers and volunteers on the area’s biodiversity in order to help preserve forest ecosystems.
In December this initially involved selecting two different habitats for assessment. The first habitat selected is situated along side a river that flows through multiple habitats including secondary forest, bog land and a corn field. The second habitat is situated behind the village temple and travels uphill through a dry forest.
Our 6 surveys completed throughout January collected 14,622 observations comprising of 36 species across both trails including 17 species of bird, 17 species of insect and 2 species of mammal. The large majority of observations being that of Harvestmen, a species of arachnid belonging to the order Opiliones that are commonly mistaken for spiders. Only 6 of these observations occurred on the temple trail, the remaining 14,454 observations all being observed at the river. These arachnids are often found congregating in large groups hundreds to thousands strong, interestingly, harvestmen were recorded in all areas of the river trail except between 600 and 800 meters which makes up the open bog land section of the transect indicating that these insects may not thrive in such an environment perhaps due to exposure to the environment or predators.
Further surveys of both trails hope to identify many more species in the coming months. In addition we hope to mark further trails in the near future, including a trail along a road to measure the effects of disturbed areas compared to those not disturbed and an area of the dense forest in close proximity to a large cave.
Thank you for continuing to support this project.
All the best
Thank you from the Karen community, Mahouts, GVI Thailand and the GVi Charitable Trust for all your support in 2013!
The year started for us on a sad note; the loss of our young Songkran due to an unfortunate accident with a farmer in the community leaving out pesticide. This then spurred on our initiative for moving forward to put mahouts through ethical elephant training, teach the community about sustainable farmer methods and raise money to build a clinic for elephants in the village in case there’s any emergency.
This week, we had a visit from the vets from the conservation centre in Chiang Mai. They had come out to do health checks on our elephants and to look for any signs of illness or wounds. They began their health check with our three calves, Mario, Bpee Mai and Lulu by checking their weight, their height, their ears and their feet. Mario appeared to have some kind of insect living in his ear which they gave him an injection for and they also gave the calves some vitamins and deworming tablets.
Next we moved on into the forest to visit our first adult herd, Thong Dee, Mae San Jep and Mana. As soon as we arrived with Thong Dee, all the mahouts minus Patti Syee ran away from Thong Dee since they are terrified of being near her but Thong Dee seemed calm with the vets around her. Again the weights, feet and ears where checked and all seemed healthy with this herd. They were given some de-wormers, which Thong Dee and Mae San Jep ate off the ground and which Mana was given with pumpkin.
Next we moved onto our final herd, Kha Moon and Khum Suk. The health check on Kha moon went smoothly and she had no problems and ate her de-worming tablets no problem. Once the vets went to check Khum Suk, she started to get agitated and we had to give her a lot of elephant grass in order for her to keep still long enough for the vets to carry out their health check. Once the health check was completed, we found that all was healthy with this herd too.
Once the vets were done, they noticed an injury with one of our mahouts – Jordoh had stepped on a nail earlier on in the day whilst in the forest and was limping. The vets tended to his foot by flushing it with hydrogen peroxide several times and bandaging it up. Once they were finished, they vets had completed their job and where back on their way to Chiang Mai leaving us feeling more confident with the elephants health.
Thank you again and if you are looking to support a project this Christmas or New Year, please consider the Songkran fund
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.
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GVI Charitable Trust Manager