Hiding. On the right is the old Kraal!
Checking in with Mom.
Up to no good... Watch out!
Last month I was able to cross a biiig big item off my wish list, playing with baby elephants! BABY ELEPHANTS!! ! ! !!! I have seen them from afar many times on "safari" at Animal Kingdom and always felt a little cheated having been born in a country with no elephants of its own, certainly none that I'd ever be able to touch much less mingle with... but one day while planning my trip to Thailand Lonely Planet blew my mind - you can volunteer with elephants - what did they mean?? what did this include???? could I touch one? certainly you could never ride one, wait, you can ride one???!!! REALLY???!
During my month in Thailand I had a series of elephant encounters, the first was volunteering 2 weeks at an amazing program called the Elephant Mahout Project (which I will feature in a future post, I rode an elephant, it was great! http://www.theelephantmahoutproject.com/), the last was accidentally wandering into the Prakochaban Foundation/ElephantStay (not for profit). I had read about this place also, they do excellent work with retired and rescued elephants, as well as rehabilitating killer elephants, and they are home to an impressive breeding program, but it was not open to visitors, so I didn't try to go. But I totally lucked out... I went to see the Royal Elephant Kraal, just the old structure according to the map, no elephants anymore, none nearby, but I smelled elephants, there were turds in the Kraal! there was an elephant camp right next door (it was a very bad map)! missing my own elephant I couldn't resist taking a peek, and I am so glad I did! the first person I met was Paul Hayden, a British volunteer who'd been working there on and off for years, finally an elephant person who speaks English! the questions poured out and he was so generous with the information (Cheers Paul, keep up the good work!).
The whole camp was impressive but the highlight for me were the 3 babies! little ones running around free, playing in the kiddie pool, running up to people, nursing a few feet from me, loving being loved up! my favorite baby was named Pocket Elephant (English translation) so tiny and shy, her poor mother was rescued from neglect and the stress may have caused Pocket's smallness, hopefully Mom will soon realize she is with friends. I'm aware I may be anthropomorphizing but baby elephants are exactly like children! Putting everything in their mouth, occasional brattiness, fighting sleep and staggering around, hiding behind mom when scared, testing limits, aware of their unbelievable cuteness, using cuteness to get away with naughtiness! After coming home I found out baby elephants are called punks, totally fits, the little boy elephant had tried to knock me off the fence, little Opal had pulled my hair and had to be corralled because she thought breaking windows was super fun, hundreds of pounds of fuzzy lovable mischief!
The Prakochaban Foundation is responsible for 1% of the baby elephants born in Thailand, and are working hard to boost Thailand's declining elephant population, on their website under RESCUE AND REHAB are ways in which you can contribute financially to help the Foundation keep up the good work, you can also go there yourself and do a volunteer stay (where you will ride elephants and go swimming with them in the river, it's true!) http://www.elephantstay.com/Prakochaban-Foundation.html! The elephants in this camp are well cared for and treated with kindness, help these guys out! You can also buy paintings from some of the resident elephant artists on http://www.elephantart.com (look under the elephants from Thailand and see who works out of the Ayutthaya Elephant Palace and Royal Kraal!).