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Elephants go bananas

By Lachlan Stewart 2 years ago
Categories Chiang Mai

Today some new volunteers were meeting the Elephants for the first time so we left base with as many bags of bananas as we could carry. We headed off through the forest to find the Thong Dee herd consisting of Thong Dee, Sah Jah, Mana and our new bull Boo Kah.

After a hard hike the first elephant we saw was Boo Kah. The new volunteers were amazed by his size and presence but the big male was polite and calm as they fed him bananas, proving that he is quite the gentle giant. Down the river we next came across Thong Dee, the mature lady was graceful and beautiful as usual, happily accepting bunches of bananas from the new volunteers. The last elephants to see were Sah jah and Mana, this was when the fun started.

We found the pair close by as they often are, and began feeding bananas to Mana. As usual, Mana displayed plenty of her endearing cheekiness, including snatching bananas, ignoring her mahout and trying to wrap her trunk around a new volunteer. We then fed Sah Jah (who was much more polite) but the elephants followed us closely until we discovered a stray banana in one of the volunteer’s bags. After ensuring they had eaten every last banana the pair then began foraging in the forest and we began our data collection.

After foraging in silence for a time we were surprised to hear the pair begin rumbling, squeaking and trumpeting loudly and frequently. This behavior did not stop and it sounded as if the pair was distressed. When we went up a hill for a better view the mahouts assured us that the elephants were simply happy. Mana and Sah Jah continued making a racket and happily pulling down trees and bamboo, Mana even charged a huge tree down for fun! In total the pair made 166 vocalizations in about 45 minutes! It was a great first experience with the elephants for the new volunteers; we left the herd with plenty of new data and having seen some very interesting behaviour indeed.

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