Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mario and Mae Sen Jap - First health check

Due to the success of the GVI project in bringing elephants back into the forest, the villagers of Huay Pakoot have started their own ecotourism business independent of GVI. This would allow the villagers to take their elephants out of tourist camps and bring them back to the forest, while still providing essential income for the elephant owners and mahouts.  GVI has offered to provide start-up funds to the village to facilitate the establishment of this project, but has put certain conditions in place to ensure the responsible and ethical running of the new project.  One of these conditions is that GVI staff and volunteers run monthly health checks on the elephants to make sure they are healthy and happy.
                Sen Jap and her calf, Mario, are the first two elephants back in the forest as part of this village project, and today was the first health check. The health check was run by Lynsey, GVI base manager, and the three long-term interns, Anna, Rosie, and Morgan (me). We were led out to the elephants by Sing Chai, the elephants’ mahout and owner.  Sing Chai was very helpful and friendly, and is obviously very dedicated and close to his elephants.  We hiked a ways into the forest until we found Sen Jap and Mario happily browsing on a lovely hillside among the trees.  Sen Jap and Mario immediately sniffed out the bananas we had brought along in our backpacks, and we happily spent the next half an hour feeding the pair and admiring them. Mario is a very friendly and persistent little fellow, and he eagerly investigated our backpacks and bodies in search of his treat. While feeding them we examined the elephants for any health problems, and we were happy to find the elephants in prime condition. 

Both Sen Jap and her son looked very healthy, and didn’t seem to have any problems at all.  We also took some measurements of Mario’s head and the circumference of his feet so that we can monitor his growth in subsequent health checks.  Once we had collected all the data we needed we followed the elephants for a little while to watch them feed and interact, before heading back to the village. Overall the health check went spectacularly well, and we feel confident that the elephants are being treated well and are happy in the forest.