Sunday, September 9, 2012

Elephant Personalities at the Golden Triangle- Part 3

This blog will be my final account for now on the different elephant personalities here at the Golden Triangle, Thailand. The more we learn about elephant behaviour, such as the different social interactions between elephants and their personalities, the better equipped we will be to help protect these magnificent creatures in the wild.

Firstly, I am going to tell you about a young male elephant called Pepsi who is another star elephant at the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation. At only 12 years of age, and being only one of 3 male elephants at the camp, he has proven to be an extremely intelligent elephant. Pepsi has shown that he can recognise himself in the mirror, as he passed the final stage of the mirror self- recognition test. He also worked exceptionally well with Tangmo (a younger female elephant) in a co-operation task that was put in front of them. To read more about Think Elephants International’s research, please check out this section of our website:
In the olfactory research that we are currently conducting, Pepsi has shown himself to be a pro and will always know the answer to the task in a few seconds. It is always a joy to work with Pepsi on research projects as his relationship with his mahout is very special and so interesting to watch. Pepsi’s mahout is called Khun Karn and he has two very beautiful little girls who often accompany him. You will often see Pepsi from afar with two little girls on his back. Na Luck, the eldest of the two daughters, even has her own mahout tool! The relationship with Pepsi and the kids is very unique, as there are not many elephants that will let little kids climb all over their bodies. Pepsi often lets Na Luck climb onto his trunk and he will lift her over onto his back. Karn is an excellent mahout and Pepsi listens to everything that he says. Between research trials, Pepsi will often go and stand next to Karn as if for company. It’s very sweet to watch. Pepsi is a very good- looking elephant although he really enjoys wallowing and playing in the mud. Every time he comes to research, he is always a different colour depending on the mud patch in which he has rolled. In a way, he reminds me of people who like to change their hair colour as Pepsi really does look different every time I see him; from dark brown, to reddy brown to grey and then patchy, Pepsi does look good in all the different colours. Before Pepsi leaves research, he always says goodbye to us by making a loud squeak.
Pepsi having a snooze
The second elephant that I am going to tell you about is one of the most chilled out elephants at the camp, Lanna. At 24 years of age, Lanna is a very gentle-natured elephant and is generally very relaxed. I have never heard Lanna make a single noise.  Sometimes Lanna can be too chilled as at research she can take a very long time to investigate the task we give to her, and making a decision can also take her a lot of time too. Like elephant, like mahout is very true in the case of Lanna and her mahout Pong , as he is also of very similar nature, very relaxed and chilled out. However, Lanna is like a different elephant in the river as all her quietness seems to disappear - when she gets into the river, she sprays water over other elephants and generally has a great time just splashing around. After all the splashing, she will often lay under the water with her trunk stuck up in the air like a snorkel so she can still breathe.


The final elephant that I am going to tell you about is Poonlarb who is 26 years old. Poonlarb is a very interesting elephant. We are not exactly sure about her history, but when you look into her eyes you can tell she has been through a lot. Poonlarb is quite a character and is slightly cheeky.  At research, whenever she gets the task correct, she will hold on to the container for her food reward and tries not to give it back! If she gets a task wrong, it is as if she is annoyed with herself as she makes a very loud squeak.

Poonlarb is also a very excitable elephant. The other day, Poonlarb and 2 other elephants were coming down from the jungle (where they stay in the evening) to the big pond that they bathe in every morning. This particular morning must have been different as Poonlarb was very excited to get to the pond. I have never seen her move so quickly. She was trumpeting and making so much noise all the way to the pond; and when she got into the water, she made even more noise and was splashing a great deal. It was great to see Poonlarb so happy.

And so for now, I hope you have learnt something about a few of the wonderful elephants that we have the privilege of studying here in Thailand. Stay tuned in the future for some more elephant personality accounts.

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