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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 time.

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 (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 comfort.

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 Adelaide Australia

Mae Mai Bio

Searching high and low
Searching high and low

More Pictures

Thong Bai
Mae Mai in tears
Mae Mai being consoled by the herd
Herd coming to pay respects

Mae Mai searching forThong Bai
Mae Mai in mourning
Mae Mai in mourning

Looking for Thong Bai
Looking for Thong Bai
Mae Mai by the river - now alone
Mae Mai by the river,
her favourite place. Now she
is alone

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