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GVI Chiang Mai Update October 2019

By GVI Chiang Mai 3 weeks ago

In our latest update, we talk about our recent staff additions, renewed opportunities to engage with our mahouts, details about our latest GVI Trust fundraiser, new additions to our base and an update on baby Lah Lah.

Playing football with the mahouts now a regular feature in the program schedule

Football is a big deal here in Huay Pakoot, where the mahouts have their own team. During the football season, the mahouts train almost every day for the yearly tournament held in October. It’s fair to say that they are insanely impressive!

But, during the rest of the year, the mahouts usually hang up their boots. That was until one of our previous volunteers, Alex Murdoch, started up volunteer vs mahout football games! Alex had an incredible bond with the mahouts, built through her warm personality and teaching English to them twice a week.

Now, volunteer vs mahout football games take place each week! It is a highlight for the volunteers and staff here at GVI, with everyone taking part. Those who do not wish to play, enjoy coming up to spectate, and often end up cheerleading!

– Toby Craze, Community Coordinator

Beginning to teach the mahouts how to take data to further engage them in the project

Staff members Chigusa Keller and Oli Barnes recently had the opportunity to teach the mahouts for our GVI elephants about our data collection. Joined by mahouts Wynn, Don, Delur, Atit and Thanapon, Chigusa and Oli gave them an insight into how we take data on their elephants.

Using Thai-translated data sheets, the mahouts were able to understand the various vocabulary involved. Don also assisted with translation (using his own experience in being trained in data collection) to show them the method.

Chigusa also demonstrated to the mahouts how to take a GPS location. We do this on all of our hikes, so we can track the elephants’ movements in the forest throughout the year.

With this first session completed, we are now going to give our mahouts the chance to help take data on hikes. This will be a fantastic way for our volunteers to further engage with them and to also involve the mahouts directly in project activity. We look forward to seeing how they get on!

– Tom Mitchell, Senior Field Staff, Marketing Coordinator

Two long-term interns, Jonathan Berry and Stephanie Hart, join the staff team, on placement

We are very proud to announce that two of our long-term interns, Jonathan Berry and Stephanie Hart, have moved into staff positions for their remaining time here in Huay Pakoot.

Both of these individuals completely smashed the theory side of their internships, and took a solid leadership role over the past three-months. They were leading hikes, classes, and delivering presentations way before their two-week break!

Both Jonny and Steph are incredibly talented, and have their own special attributes that they can bring to the project. It is a great pleasure to have them onboard our already close-knit staff team, we are looking forward to the times ahead.

– Toby Craze – Community Coordinator

Over thirty volunteers/interns/staff complete a 57km walk to Mae Chaem, in support of the GVI Trust, raising over £2,000!

In July of this year, we embarked on what is now becoming an annual fundraising challenge to walk the 57km to the nearby town of Mae Chaem. Over thirty volunteers, interns and staff hiked over the course of two days, up and down steep climbs. On the first day, we walked over 20km in unseasonably intense heat that made the journey all the more challenging. We then camped overnight, before setting off early the next morning. While the second day was cooler, it was a longer distance and was a real test of endurance for all.
To everyone’s credit, the walk was completed at an unbelievable pace and regardless of whether people walked the whole distance or some of it, it was an achievement that everyone could be justly proud. Moreover, thanks to all of you, we raised over £2,000!

– Tom Mitchell – Senior Field Staff, Marketing Coordinator

New base kitchen built, thanks to a long-term intern’s project

Long-term intern Cindel Delehedde has been with us here in Huay Pakoot for the past five-months. She has completely smashed her long-term internship: assignments being completed early to the highest standard; leading Pakinyaw lessons; leading elephant data collection hikes; leading community activities; teaching English (with English as her second language!); and giving us a brand-spanking-new kitchen!

Previous volunteers will know that our kitchen and sink area wasn’t exactly 5-star. Cindel noticed this and decided to do something about it, and made it her intern project! With her engineering background, she made fresh designs for the area; she included all measurements, materials, and amount of materials needed for the mammoth job. Cindel got in contact with villagers to organise building materials, and to organise payments for their carpentry services. Once building was underway, she took a leadership role in a team of volunteers and staff who then helped to build, move, plumb, clean, and varnish the new equipment.

Cindel’s enthusiasm and dedication to the project has been inspiring, and we will always remember her through the phenomenal new kitchen area she has given us!

– Toby Craze – Community Coordinator

Baby Lah Lah is growing up fast. Mother and daughter are in great health!

People always say you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when significant events happen – well I remember very clearly hearing the news of Lah Lah’s birth. I was in the forest at the time, seeing her big sister Lulu and playmate Dee Dee, when I got a call from mahout Don, to tell me that they had gone to see Kha Moon that morning and found a strong, healthy baby girl by her side. She was born at about 5am on 30th May 2019. Following this, I was sent pictures and videos of the tiny elephant. It was hard to concentrate on anything else, I couldn’t wait to meet her and watch her grow and learn in the forest along with her mother. The whole village was excited, but everyone agreed to keep things quiet for a little while, and celebrate with each other but keep the news off social media.

I had already been with the project for over a year, so had watched Kah Moon throughout the later stages of her pregnancy. When I first arrived on project we had no idea she was even pregnant, but by late 2018 we had started to hear whispers – maybe, just maybe? Her and Bulowan had been in the same area the previous year, so it was definitely a possibility. I remember going to see her one day in the forest and suddenly noticing how huge she was. She moved sluggishly and uncomfortably, every step seeming like an effort, while hormones dribbled from her temporal glands. We thought that surely she would give birth soon, yet she seemed to stay in this state for an age, getting bigger and bigger, supervised by her best friend Sadja and mother Khum Suk.

I was lucky enough to be able to see her the day after her birth, along with some of the other volunteers. The hike through the forest to see her seemed to take forever, and we were all totally quiet; we didn’t want to disturb the newborn or Kha Moon. We reached a flat bit of ground where some of the mahouts were camping out. It was raining. She was so tiny, but up on her feet, moving her legs in a confused kind of way, wondering what this strange, cold, wet, green world was. Kha Moon seemed to be in awe of this new addition to her family.

She had no name for a while – we just called her ‘the baby’ (or ‘gorchaw poh’ in Pakinyaw). De Lur, Kah Moon’s mahout, is automatically the mahout for the baby as well as long as she is dependant on her mother. The relationship I love to see though, is between her and Don (De Lur’s good friend). Don adores the baby. Before she was named Lah Lah, he would affectionately call her ‘Nana’. His eyes would light up every time we asked how she was doing and he would give us regular baby-elephant updates.

Lah Lah was born deep in the forest, but just a few days after her birth, she was able to walk with Kha Moon several miles so that she was closer to the road, enabling the mahouts to check on her more easily. She stayed with her mother in a clearing for a couple of weeks, slowly learning to adjust to her new environment, practicing her walking, and of course using her trunk. The mahouts camped out every night those first few weeks, to make sure she was safe and that everything was going well. She is lucky to have such a calm, grounded mother – it has turned her into a rather unfazed (and slightly fearless..!) young elephant.

Lah Lah turned 4 months old recently and it’s amazing to see how much she’s grown during this time, and how much she’s learning. She spends most of her time in the forest curling her trunk around things, practicing picking up sticks and trying to break branches like her mother. She is not weaned yet, but imitating foraging behaviour will be very important for her in the future. It can take up to 5 years for elephants to gain complete control over their trunk, so it’s great that she’s getting the practice in early! We can see her improving every day, and it’s honestly such a joy for all of us to see this baby elephant being able to grow up in her natural environment.

– Liane Fulford, Program Manager