Monday, April 18, 2011

Elephants Move to Conservation Forest

Last week started off with lots of excitement on our elephant reintroduction program in Huay Pakoot because the elephants have moved into new habitat, inside the community managed conservation forest.

Most of the year the elephants forage in the community forests surrounding the village. We are well into the hot, dry season in this part of Thailand now so there are fewer juicy plants and elephant food near the village during this time of year. To solve this problem the elephants have been moved to the conservation forest, and last week was our first visit! The GVI team is now shuttled about 10 min down the road and then we hike into the conservation forest to monitor the elephants' progress.
The conservation forest has been conserved and relatively untouched for over 300 years and our experience hiking in the forest today was amazing. This ecosystem is protected with strong taboos by the Karen villagers, who rely on the forest as a watershed. We began by hiking past a few rice paddy fields and then followed a small stream into the forest. We were surrounded by lush green plants and tall trees. The biodiversity within the forest was incredible and there were tons of leeches! Gross. Volunteers also came across two other elephants that were free ranging within the forest and got to observe our herd interacting with these other elephants. The elephants were very active in the forest and Song Kran and Bpee Mai were playful with each other. Overall, it was a great day and volunteers felt fortunate to be the first volunteers to hike with the elephants in this conservation forest area this year.