Mae Mai & Thong Bai
Unconditional Love Aug 06 - By Lek Chailert
In January 2005 we rescued two mature elephants. Mae Mai
arrived at the park on the 25th and, on the 30th,we welcomed
Thong Bai. They introduced themselves and became firm friends as
soon as they met. Thong Bai was the oldest elephant we had ever
had at the park and, at over ninety years old, she was over
three decades senior to her newest friend. Both had experienced
tough working lives elephants which had created a bond as they
swapped stories of their past hardships. They kept themselves
separate from the main herd and stayed on their own most of the
Elephant Nature Park encourages our rescued elephants to
select a family and the herd has formed five major groups. Mae
Mai and Thong Bai decided to be close partners from the very
beginning. Each day they spent long hours on the river bank,
bathing together and spraying hot sand over their bodies. Some
times Mae Mai would cover herself with sand and later would
scrub her body against Thong Baiís side. They spend idyllic days
relaxing under the trees constantly talking and giggling to each
other as they ate. Thong Bai walked very slowly and Mae Mai
patiently ambled beside. They were inseparable and cherished
each moment of their precious time together.
Mae Mai (left) showing her love for Thong Bai
Mae Mai would munch grass and cane then pass the moist leaves
for Thong Bai. They enjoyed over twenty months together as bosom
friends. The depth of love and care they had for each other is
hard for us to understand.
Thong Bai became seriously ill in July with a sickness
lasting for over two weeks. She began to weaken and failed to
stand up as she was rapidly loosing strength. Mae Mai was
clearly distraught and she began trumpeting from their shelter
in the early, dark hours of the morning. Her mahout ran to check
and saw Mae Mai desperately trying to help her friend to stand
up. Thong Bai stayed at the shelter all week supported by a
harness. Mae Mai never left her side. She caressed Thong Bai
with her trunk and rumbled to her friend all day and night. We
tried to persuade her to go to the river to bathe and drink, but
she did not want to move so we carried a water tank over to her.
Grass and corn were offered and we left it a little distance
from where Thong Bai lay as encouragement for her to move. Mae
Mai snatched the grass and placed it in front of Thong Bai. She
kept trying to get Thong Bai to stand and trumpeted over and
over in an attempt to give her will power and a life spirit.
Thong Bai passed away on 12 August. Mae Mai was devastated.
She became nervous, agitated and confused. A moment before Thong
Bai passed away Thong Bai urinated a very dark and unusual
colour. Mae Mai started to sniff Tong Baiís body and the puddle
of her pee. She used her trunk to caress Thong Baiís heart then
suddenly banged her trunk violently on the ground over and over
again. The other park elephants started to trumpet back to her
and the whole areas was alive with elephant grief. Our vet, Dr
Prasit, checked her heart beat and then told us that Thong Bai
was very close to leaving us as well. We stood beside her,
patting and stroking in an effort to calm her down. Finally she
stroked her friends head with her trunk. Thong Baiís eyes closed
as she passed away.
Thong Bai is resting in peace now but Mae Mai still can not
come to terms with the loss of such a dear, close friend. She
stood beside Thong Bai to guard her body.
In the evening we arranged for a Buddhist monk to perform a
funeral ceremony and we had to allow Mae Mai to stay beside the
body. During the ceremony, when the monk chanted, we heard Mae
Maiís grief stricken moaning which brought us all to tears. It
was too late and already dark to bury Thong Bai so we decide to
cover up her body with a tent. Mae Mai refused to leave and we
had to let her to stay with Thong Baiís body all night.
The following morning we prepared a grave for Thong Bai but
as we tried to lift the body Mae Mai stood her ground. Finally
we decided to use the herd to temp Mae Mai away. Two naughty young
elephants came and annoyed Mae Mai as they attempted to suckle.
This tickled her and she walked away from the two babies to
another shelter. Her mahout decided to confine her to the hut
and covered it with a tent so that she will not see us moving
the body. Mae Mai was so angry and began screaming and
trumpeting loudly. She refused to accept the loss of her beloved
friend. We then had to rush to move Thong Baiís body to the
burial site. She broke free and ran back to find the empty space
where Thong Bai had been. She sniffed and searched all over the
park for Thong Bai trumpeting and moaning as she walked.
Thoon, her mahout, followed and offered food but she was not
interested. She carefully checked every centimeter of the park
area and communicated with the herd members in a desperate
attempt to find her old friend.
She then became sullen and withdrawn and stood very still.
She looked very confused, hurt and sad. Then she walked to the
river bank, the favored spot where both of them spent many hours
together. She started to drink from the river but, as she drank,
forlorn groans escaped from her.
The next day she went back to the river bank, still moaning
as tears ran down her cheeks. The female elephants came to
comfort her, brushing her with their trunks and offering
condolences. Mae Yui and her 11 months old baby Dok Mai came to
touch Mae Mai and tried to cheer her up. Bua Thong and her herd
walked across the field to console and another baby elephant
tried to cheer Mae Mai up. Malai Thong put her trunk on her back
an even Srinual, the street elephant who never showed much
feelings, gently patted her face and tried to murmur words of
We do hope soon the parkís herd will heal Mae Mai and accept
her to join their families to make her happy again. The loss of
such a close friend will take time and we know she will never
forget Thong Bai.
Note: Mae Mai is an ex-logging elephant rescued from Mae Hong
Son under the kind and generous help of Mr Roy Fudge from
Mae Mai Bio