Wednesday, September 11, 2013

An Insight Into Our Calves

If you don’t know, GVI has 3 young juveniles: Pbee Mai, Mario, and LuLu. LuLu is the newest elephant to the GVI herd and it’s interesting watching her, Pbee Mai, and Mario develop together and their interactions in the forest. On all the hikes, volunteers try to collect touch and proximity data. It’s not always an easy task because, sometimes, the elephants are in a spot that’s hard to see or they are constantly moving; either way, you have to respect their space even if it means not collecting data that day. ‘Baby hikes’ are always interesting because you get to spend a lot of the time sitting and observing the elephants; not that you don’t do that on the adult hikes but the younger elephants are slower when they move around foraging in the forest.

What I’ve noticed on the hikes with Pbee Mai, Mario and LuLu is how much data we seem to collect Pbee Mai. Pbee Mai is the oldest of the young elephants and he seems to be the elephant that initiates a lot of the interactions between the three. As well, since LuLu spends a lot of time foraging by herself, a lot of the touching interactions occur between Pbee Mai and Mario. It would be interesting to know if the reason Pbee Mai initiates a lot of the interactions is because he’s the oldest of the three young elephants and he has the most experience foraging in the forest; perhaps Mario and, sometimes, LuLu takes direction from him.

While I believe from collecting data on the young juveniles that Pbee Mai initiates most of the interactions, I think it’s interesting to note that Mario is slowly starting to initiate more interactions, mostly between him and Pbee Mai but that’s because when foraging in the forest, Pbee Mai and Mario are usually always in close proximity of each other or within trunks length of one another. It’s also interesting to note that Mario, out of him, Pbee Mai and LuLu, is the most aware of the volunteers in the forest with the elephants.

LuLu, on the other hand, spends a lot of time foraging by herself away from Pbee Mai and Mario. The fact that she does this is actually very encouraging because LuLu is new to the forest; she spent the early part of her life in the camps. When she first arrived a little over 2 and a half months ago, she didn’t know how to forage in the forest. People who were here when she first arrived said in the beginning, she wouldn’t leave her mahouts side so it’s very encouraging to see her wander off by herself and away from her mahout.

If someone were to ask me about one specific aspect of GVI’s elephant forest reintroduction program that I find most interesting, it would be collecting and analyzing the data we collect on Pbee Mai, Mario, and LuLu. The data we collect shows how much these 3 young elephants are developing in their natural habitat; away from the stresses of cities and tourist camps.

By Megan Brase
Elephant Intern