This is a continuation from my previous blog about the very unique elephant personalities here at the Golden Triangle. Every day I spend with the elephants, I realise that elephants are not too different from us. Each elephant has a different trait and personality; for example, they can be greedy, spoilt, confident, nosey, popular, relaxed, chilled, friendly and naughty. So really elephants are just like humans.
The first elephant in this blog that I am going to talk about is Ploy. She is an extremely intelligent elephant, an A* student. We have the pleasure of working with her frequently and she does very well at any of the intelligence tasks that we set her. The Earthwatch volunteers, who come to help us with our research, all love Ploy too, as she is a very curious and inquisitive elephant. Whenever she meets somebody, she will stick her trunk into their face to get a nice smell of them and probably, in her very clever brain, make a quick personality assessment, or work out if they have any tasty treats. Not only is she one of the smartest elephants here, but she also provides much entertainment between trials at the research site, where there are many free ranging chickens. These chickens really annoy Ploy, to the extent that she has come up with the novel technique of throwing sticks and stones at them to shoo them away. The latter is very effective although she is yet to cause bodily injury to any of the chickens. Watching Ploy play with our baby elephant Am is also a treat. The two of them will run up and down the field together and Am will not leave her side. The whole time they are together, there is much trunk interaction and vocalisation. Special relationships between individual elephants may last an elephant’s whole life time although, just like humans, the quality of these relationships and the bond between them may change over time. For Am at least, Ploy is definitely a role model for now and they have a very special bond.
Ploy and Baby Am
Am is the youngest elephant at the GTAEF and is already a favourite. Not only does she look incredibly cute but she has so much character too. She is one of the most vocal elephants at the camp and produces some very interesting and loud vocalisations, mainly consisting of baby squeaks and chirps. My favourite experiences with Am are at the BEEE (baby elephant education experience) that Think Elephants and GTAEF run at the Ananatara Hotel. Am loves doing the BEEE as she gets to run around with her friends, including Ploy. I love watching Am bathing in the river as her face exudes sheer joy. It is very funny watching her climb out of the muddy bank as she often slips but she has great determination to get to the top, which she always somehow manages to do. Am has been taught to kiss guests, so whenever I see Am I get a big muddy kiss on my face. It’s smelly but it is certainly great being kissed by an elephant and, working in this remote area it’s the only type of kiss I get!
Am posing for the camera
I am going to end this blog talking about Phuki. He is one of three bull elephants at GTAEF and is quite magnificent, although his slightly effeminate name doesn’t quite do him justice. He is a very large elephant and has most impressive tusks. I love looking into Phuki’s eyes as you can see he has had an interesting history and has lived through many events. Phuki is an old boy, approximately 40 years of age, and has been at the GTAEF elephant camp for 3 years. Phuki was used for many years in the logging industry in Chiang Mai province near the Burmese border and then for many years in a tourist camp before coming to the elephant haven at GTAEF. We use Phuki in our cognition research and he has proven to be one of the most intelligent elephants at the camp, passing the mirror self recognition test, and having exceptional olfactory (smell) abilities. I love working with him as he has a very gentle nature and of course is a genius when it comes to the tasks that we throw at him.
Phuki showing off his beautiful tusks
To be continued.................:)