The 16 of April 2003 saw the dawning of a new era for our herd in
Northern Thailand. It was the first time our growing herd of sixteen
elephants were united as they moved towards their new sanctuary. Max,
Lilly, Jokia and Mae Perm were in the first group to arrive as we
continued to walk the rest of the group towards this Elephant Haven.
There is plenty of grass for them and the big river is so loved by the
herd where they swim and relax to their hearts content. The area is
large enough for them to have space where they can live as natural a
life as possible.
I look around as this great grey herd start
forming their social groups of friends and acquaintances.
Max, the huge bull, loves to spend a lot of his time unwinding
alone in the river. When Lilly wades in Max starts to join her and
follows her every-where. At first Lilly does not seem to like Max’s
intrusions, she was always quite solitary and preferred her own
company in the jungle. One night Max lay down to sleep and in the
morning could not stand up. He cannot bend his leg after the road
accident where a truck hit him when he was living in Bangkok, Lilly
was happy to pull him up so that he can stand. After this Max started
to like Lilly a lot and pleased her by touching and cuddling her with
his trunk. Lilly started to accept him fondly after this and they soon
became firm friends.
Hope, the young bull, and Jabu are the last two to arrive at their
new home on the 17 April. The first day Hope arrived he was so excited
at his new big, lush surroundings and more so to see so many big
elephants. Never shy he was quick to introduce himself to Max and
Lilly. As he first stepped towards Max he turned, circled and began
sniffing and smelling him with his trunk. He found that Max and Lilly
were friendly and did not mind his company. He approached Max, going
under his tall body many times and leaning against the pillars of
Max's long front legs. Lilly also accepted Hope from the beginning and
began to play with him as a big mother elephant would. We were very
excited to see Hope walk to Mae Perm - the grand mother matriarch
elephant who we are preparing to adopt Hope. This was not easy at
first as Mae Perm has been taking care of the blind elephant called
Jokia who became a little nervous when Hope went near them. Mae Perm
communicated with her all the time letting her know what was going on
and calming Jokia down.
Hope approached Mae Perm many times but she walked away, seemingly
uninterested. He tried hard to win over her affections but his long
time companion Jabu is very emotional and jealous. She doesn't want to
lose their special friendship with Hope and wants him to be
exclusively with her. Each time Hope went close to Mae Perm she would
go between them and push Hope away. On the second day Mae Perm pushed
Jabu out from the herd and it took three days for Mae Perm, along with
Jokia, to accept Hope and Jabu back into this tightly knit group.
Mae Perm, Jokia and Hope then introduced themselves to Mae Keaw (Minimy)
who kindly welcomed him for the beginning. Now Mea Keaw follows him
everywhere and treats young Hope as her own son, swimming and walking
everywhere with him. Normally Mae Keaw doesn't like to be with the
rest of the group and is not keen on Jokia, but today she decides to
move to join the herd. She hopes to be the favoured mother of Hope
wishing to take care of this little orphan. The females are fine with
him but acceptance by the males may prove much more difficult. We are
deeply worried that the big herd bulls Pooky and Boonkhum might reject
Hope and may attack him.
We decided to move the two bull far from where Hope stays. On the
19 April as Pooky enjoys a morning bath Hope plunges into the river to
swim in the company of his new mothers. He paddles slowly and
cautiously towards Pooky. He then begins to swim with the large bull
and crawls over his back as Pooky lies down in the river. Surprisingly
Pooky did not mind him at all. We all stood apprehensively and
silently by the river bank fearing a rebuttal or even an attack.
Finally Hope succeeds in his task to win the young bulls acceptance.
With only Boonkhum left for the youngster to convert he seems to be
forming a cult. This will have to wait as the generally solitary
Boonkhum relishes his own private time and is in no hurry to be
bothered by a young male impostor.
Today all our herd come together in the new land area which is now
their permanent home. The female and babies stay in their natural
group in the jungle as the bulls walk by, foraging their favourite
food. I view them from the small bamboo huts we have built. There are
tears in my eyes, tears of happiness and joy. Around me elephants
enjoy this freedom of space and time. This is what I have dreamed of
for many, many years. Now the dream has come true as I look at the
herd enjoying the haven. I have always dreamed that some day our herd
will have a safe-home land. Now I am looking at it, right in front of
Special thanks for Bert von Roemer and Serengeti Foundation who provided
this haven land and a home for our wonderful herd.
[Ed]: The new land is some 55 km from Chiang Mai in Mae