There are 3 younger elephants involved in GVI’s elephant program: Bpee Mai, Mario, and LuLu who is the newest addition to the herd. LuLu was born in the camps and this is her first time in the forest and I’ve heard from other volunteers when LuLu first arrived, she wouldn’t leave or wander far from her mahout and she didn’t act like an elephant in the forest; volunteers who were here when LuLu first arrived also say when LuLu first arrived here, LuLu would “rock” in the forest; by rocking I mean a rocking or swaying back and forth motion that LuLu does when she’s bored or stressed. She, unfortunately, learnt the behaviour in the camps before she arrived at Huay Pakoot.
It seems in the span of a little over a month, a lot has changed. While out on one of the Monday hikes, I noticed how confident LuLu seems to be in the forest considering what I’ve heard from volunteers who were here when she first arrived. She went far enough by herself that day that she was out of sight of all the volunteers and her mahout; although her mahout seemed to know where she was at all times. The only time LuLu seemed unsure of herself was when one of the dogs from the village wandered along down the path near us and she made a noise of protest or panic and quickly made her way back to her mahout; and it was a few minutes before she left his side and wandered away by herself again. LuLu appears confident enough to be separate from Bpee Mai and Mario. When Mario and Bpee Mai move or wander, LuLu doesn’t seem to feel the need to immediately follow them; she does what she wants, where and for how long she wants, and she wanders in Bpee Mai and Mario’s direction on her own time.
It’s been 2 months since LuLu first arrived at HuayPakoot and joined the GVI herd and one of the biggest things to note is how much LuLu’s “rocking” or swaying has decreased in the forest. It’s hard for me to believe that she once performed that behaviour frequently in the forest because now it’s hardly noticeable or not noticeable at all.