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New Elephant Haven - a natural home for our herd

New Elephant Haven

A natural home for our herd

by Sangduen Chailert - April 2003

 
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 my eyes.

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 Taeng District.

Related:

Perfect for elephant bathing
Perfect for elephant bathing

To be with friends
To be with friends

A natural home
A natural home

Hope and Mae Khaew enjoy a moment of re-assurance.
Hope and Mae Khaew
enjoys a moment
of re-assurance

Hope tries hard to find a new mother
Hope tries hard to find a new mother


Hope tries to be friendly

Huts built by the staff.
Huts built by the staff.

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