Alternative Livelihoods & Elephant Rescue Thailand

Dec 27, 2011

Walking with Elephants

Walking with Elephants
Walking with Elephants

After a considerable amount of time working with Elephants in Huay Pakoot, Chiang Mai, Thailand we can now observe remarkable differences with the elephants which are now living in the wild.

GVI Volunteers work on the project throughout the year helping to create a safe environment for the Elephants and collecting important research. In addition they work with the local people helping them to develop alternative livelihoods.

A recent volunteers shared this story about one of the regular forest walks with the elephants:

‘The elephants were very curious about us and they made their way over to say hi when we first came upon them. Then each elephant went on their way, ripping down bamboo to eat as they went. We even saw Elephant Thong Dee, who is usually a bit antisocial, put her trunk in Boon Jan's mouth. The elephants were also very vocal and we heard a lot of rumbling and trumpeting all morning long. We also heard gibbons calling in the distance. Their call is very distinct and haunting and it was incredible to be hiking in the jungle observing elephants and hear gibbons calling off in the distance. At one point the gibbons were calling and the elephants were rumbling at the same time. It was a truly breathtaking moment and a very memorable hike overall.’

Funds raised through the GVI Charitable Trust will help us to bring more elephants and the owners into this program, creating a sustainable population.

To further support the project a group of GVI staff and volunteer will be participating in the Christmas day Chiang Mai Marathon. They have been working hard to both fundraise and train for the big day, good luck to everyone taking part.

Many thanks to everyone who has supported this project and have a wonderful Christmas break.

Oct 10, 2011

Two More Elephants in the Forest

Song Kran
Song Kran's new friend

The past few days have been exciting for our herd of five elephants because there have been two new elephants for them to socialize with! The chief of Huay Pakoot is an elephant owner and he has had two elephants, a mother named Mae San Jap, and her infant calf named Mario, back home in the village since March.

For the last two months they have been living in the forest, and for the last few days they have been staying near and socializing with our herd. Song Kran, our youngest infant who is a year and four months old, has become good buddies with Mario, who is about the same size as Song Kran. They have been playing together every day, wrestling and touching each other. Volunteers have even observed allo mothering and Song Kran breast fed, or at least attempted to, from Mario’s mother.

Our other infant, Bpee Mai, has also been socializing with Mario a bit but it is Song Kran who has made a new best friend. We hope that Mario and his mother can stay in the forest near Huay Pakoot and do not have to return to work in the near future. The chief and his son, along with GVI, are working to bring ecotourists to the village to help fund Mario and his mother and help keep them in the forest.

Getting to know each other
Getting to know each other
Aug 15, 2011

Village Elephant Management

Elephant fence in use
Elephant fence in use

Elephant keeping in a traditional farming community can be difficult, because elephants can wander into farms in search of food. This can lead to major human-elephant conflict because an elephant eating a farmer’s field means a loss of food and income for that farmer. In one night an elephant can destroy an entire season’s work. However, the villagers of Huay Pakoot practice traditional elephant management techniques that help them avoid such unfortunate conflicts.One example of elephant management is building fences to keep elephants, and livestock as well, out of farmer’s fields.

The villagers have built one such fence in order to allow our herd of elephants to pass from one part of the forest to another. Through the field the farmers have created a corridor for our elephants to pass through with a barbed wire fence on both sides of the path in order to prevent the elephants from eating their corn. For the past two days the elephants have used the corridor when hiking with GVI volunteers, and volunteers have got to experience firsthand village elephant management techniques. It is a great solution to potential conflict during the farming season and benefits both the elephants and the farmers.

Responsible Elephant management
Responsible Elephant management
Apr 15, 2011

Home-coming Ceremony: Elephants Return to Village

Ele Ceremony
Ele Ceremony

Over the past few weeks seven elephants have returned to the village to enjoy a few months of hard earned rest. The elephants are traditionally brought back to the village to forage in their natural habitat during the hot season. This allows them time to socialise with other elephants, mate and forage on a wider variety of plants. The elephants work in tourist camps either trekking (giving tourists elephant rides on large, heavy benches) or performing tricks such as playing football or dancing.

The villagers performed a welcoming ceremony for the elephants which they have done for possibly hundreds of years. The Karen people have a long, proud history of working with elephants and would often consider their elephant to be a member of the family.

The ceremony is one way in which the villagers give thanks to the elephants. First, a village pig is slaughtered and a soup is made using the pig’s head. The elephants are offered a small piece of the flesh with some rice. This is an offering of the pig’s spirit to the elephant’s spirit. A small bundle of fresh leaves with three candles and a rupee coin is placed on the elephants head. Jasmine flowers floating in rice wine is poured on the elephant as a blessing and white string is placed around the elephant’s ears. The villagers first bless the string over some rice asking the spirits to protect the elephant, wishing them a long and healthy life.

The villagers then eat together, eating the pig’s head soup. There is a strict order to who eats the soup.

Rice offering
Rice offering
Ele Ceremony String
Ele Ceremony String
Jan 26, 2011

Baby Elephant Eats Mothers' Dung

Baby Ele eating dung
Baby Ele eating dung

Baby elephants eat poo. This is a normal part of their development and builds important cultures of symbiotic bacteria that live in their digestive tracts and aid in digestion. They aren't born with their own set of bacteria, so before they're ready to move on to eating solids they first must start their culture, usually by borrowing some microbes from their mother. In fact, their first solid meal is, in most cases, a mouthful of their mother's dung.

On the photo here you can see little Song Kran digging into a nice fresh one. He is still nursing from his mother Boon Jaan, and sometimes Mana as well. He'll likely start moving on to solids over the next year or two. This dung is just the start of a long and healthy relationship that Song Kran will have with his microbial friends.

To learn more about elephants' digestive systems, check out this site.

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Project Leader

Sophie Birkett

GVI Charitable Trust Manager
Exeter, Devon United Kingdom

Where is this project located?

Map of Alternative Livelihoods & Elephant Rescue Thailand