Hi, my name’s Kylie and I joined GVI Thai Elephant Project at the beginning of April in the staff role of Volunteer Leader. My background is in ecology and sustainability and I’ve had a keen interest in all things elephant for a long time now. Last year I completed a research thesis for my Masters degree investigating if young elephants are learning important survival skills from their mothers. For this I spent three months living in a national park in Kenya and observing elephants every day. I also spent a couple of months in Tanzania helping out with another research project focused on human-elephant conflict.
I can say without a doubt that I came to Huay Pakoot for the elephants. My previous experience is with wild African elephants only, and the chance to work on a project all about improving the lives of their captive Asian cousins was too good to be missed. I like working with volunteers, meeting new people all the time, and think projects like this should be where the captive elephant tourism industry is headed. It’s been a beautiful opportunity to look at relationships and interactions between humans and elephants, and also the individual relationships and group dynamics that bond our five member elephant herd.
Although I came here for the elephants, the village itself and the surrounding forests are more than enough to keep me happy. It’s a unique opportunity to live in an actual traditional Karen hill tribe village that hasn’t either been set up for tourists or strongly influenced by tourism. The people in the village are lovely and so welcoming – communication can be difficult but language isn’t always necessary to make friends. The village is set amongst lush green rolling mountains, so aside from seeing the elephants on hikes there is so much to enjoy about the sounds, smells and insect life in the forests. The village animals also keep us well entertained, whether it is the chickens, pigs, buffalo or our motley crew of base hut dogs.
What I love most about being here is that every day brings something new, exciting or interesting to see and learn.