Our New NSP and Boh Duh
With the end of 2019 approaching, it is not just the end of the year or the decade that is of significance to us at this time. We are deeply saddened by the recent passing of our oldest GVI Trust elephant, Khum Suk, at the age of 70. This was a shock to us all, but we are comforted by the fact that she died peacefully in her sleep in the forest. She was suffering from no health issues prior to her death and was approaching the average life expectancy for Asian Elephants. Fortunately, she has been able to spend her last few years in her natural habitat with her family. She leaves behind daughter, Kah Moon, and granddaughters, Lulu and Lah Lah. Her mahout, Wynn, is obviously devastated, having learned so much from her as a young mahout. The bond between mahout and elephant is more evident to all of us now, more than ever.
We were fortunate and privileged to be invited by the villagers of Huay Pakoot to attend Khum Suk’s funeral, as she was buried in the forest. This was our chance to say goodbye, and we are grateful to the village for allowing us to do so. This also showed us once again how strong the relationship between the Karen people and elephants is, as Khum Suk was mourned just as any human family member would be.
This is the first elephant death in the village, aside from the death of Kah Moon’s calf, Wan Mai, (who passed away from the elephant herpes virus) in living memory for many of the villagers. The elephant’s longevity is impressive and allows for long-lasting relationships with humans. All of the villagers that attended her funeral had been a mahout for Khum Suk at some time in the past or had some relationship with her. By being in their natural habitat, Asian Elephants stand a much greater chance of living long lives they naturally would when not in captivity. With the passing of Khum Suk, we are more determined than ever to ensure that the elephants she leaves behind continue to live their lives in the forest, where they belong.
We would also like to thank everyone who has fundraised to keep Khum Suk in the forest over the years, as without you, she would not have been able to enjoy her retirement as she deserved to.
It is still too early for us to know how this will affect the small herd Khum Suk was matriarch of. We will be keeping a close eye on Sah Jah, Kah Moon and Lah Lah to see if there is anything we can do to help them through their expected period of mourning. Mourning behaviour has been observed previously when Kah Moon’s calf, Wan Mai, passed away, so our data collection will be integral to us monitoring them. While this is a sad occasion for us all, we are reassured by the belief that Khum Suk’s legacy will live on through her descendants.
Our recent fundraising activity has focused primarily on ensuring the newest addition to Khum Suk’s family, baby Lah Lah, can spend her life in the forest and hopefully never know of life in captivity. We recently did a marathon three-day litter pick in the local district to not only do this, but to also clean up the area that elephants like Lah Lah spend their days. Our original target was to pick up 200kg of litter, but we far surpassed that initial goal and over the three days picked up a whopping 738.2kg (1,627lbs)!
We are proud of our success but it also brings home the shocking reality of how much litter we all produce. Our efforts also did not go unnoticed! Our litter-picking activity went viral in regional news within Thailand. In addition, we also received a thank-you from the district governor and will be receiving certificates in recognition of our efforts. Raising environmental awareness was hoped to be one of the benefits of this fundraiser, but this positive press was more than we could have imagined. Everyone’s positive attitude and diligence made for a highly successful event. Thank you to everyone who donated and/or participated from home.
In other news, we also delighted to announce that we are now joined by our newest local scholar, Boh Duh. Boh Duh joins us on the National Scholarship Program (NSP), following in the footsteps of Community Liaison, Su. Boh Duh brings with her an impressive level of English and has developed a close relationship with many of us already. She now supports Su in her work, and will be a great help moving forward. It is also a real positive for us to have another female member of the local community have the opportunity to develop their skills and language capability by working with us. It further solidifies the importance of the NSP, which is supported by your donations to the GVI Trust.
As we move into a new decade, it is important to remember that, with every end, there is a beginning. The birth of Khum Suk’s granddaughter, Lah Lah earlier this year is proof of that. We will all miss Khum Suk hugely, but we are excited for what the future 2020s decade will bring. With your help, we know that we can achieve even more.
GVI Chiang Mai