October 7, 2014

elephant walks

during the week at various times with various guides we have the opportunity to walk through the park and visit with the different social groups in the herd.  we call them elephant walks.

after a couple of days it's really easy to identify the groups.  the three ladies that always hang together.  here the are playing in the river.  the lady on the left is Mae Do who i remember from my last trip.  she is one of the gentlest elephants at the park and one we get up close to alot.  she's fiercely protected by the other two ladies that's she's formed a bond with.  both her back legs are dislocated.  i'm not sure why, the two common reasons for dislocations at park are being hit by cars or trucks while street begging or during logging operations when the logs roll down a hill and hit the elephants.  yeah, both of those sound like horrific situations.

the group with the baby boy and baby girl (called the Dok Mai) family.  it's a large social group because the female elephants gravitate to the social groups with babies.  they all want to be nannies and auntie to the baby and some times even compete for the baby's attention.  because the babies are so active they are fun to watch and the changing dynamics of the group are easy to see.

the Nuvonn family with just one baby boy.  there are some elephants that don't get along so well.  some elephants are bullies some of the old ladies try to monopolize the time with the babies.  it's on these elephant walks that we get a chance to see the dynamics of the social group play out.

there were a few instances when i saw an elephant chasing another one but it didn't amount to much other than a bunch of tourists running for cover which was a little bit funny.  a lot of funny after the fact when everyone is safe and the elephants back with their mahouts.

one day i was on the sky walk during the elephant bathing time and saw one of the elephants start towards another elephant.  they were both in quite deep water so she was moving slowly but i could see her mahout waving from the bank and yelling to get her attention so i knew she was getting into trouble.  next there is trumpeting and waving of trunks and all the elephants start to react by leaving the river.  that triggers the guides who are Thai to start yelling 'up to the river' repeatedly.  which means nothing to me but the urgency in their voices is very clear to everyone who starts to bolt in every direction.  remember, i'm safely on the skywalk so i'm thinking it's all kinda funny.  wish i had the video.

every moment spent on the elephant walks is precious and everyone enjoys being up close to the elephants.  one day after an elephant walk Jodie needed some help to get some steamed pumpkin over to some of the old ladies.  when their teeth wear out it's harder to get the nutrition they need so the elephant kitchen steams up some pumpkin which is easier for them to digest.  they missed getting it at the platform feeding so we haul three baskets out to the pens and feed them there.  steamed pumkins are nasty and to distract the other elephants in the pen we break up some of the pumpkins and feed it very slowly to keep them away from Jodie who is shoving steamed pumpkin as fast as she can into the mouth of the old lady.  

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