From our citizen science project volunteering with elephants in Thailand

Everyone has arrived safely at base. Our expedition team consists of Margot & Greg from Canada, Amy and Bridgette from the U.S., Maria from Russia and Maria and Marion from Germany. We started the expedition training today after lunch, with introductions & safety briefings and then went for an orientation walk around the village together. After everyone had moved into their rooms, Kerri gave a presentation about the background of both the elephant & community project she has set up together with her partner Sombat whose family is related to people from the village of Ban Naklang. She told us about the history of the elephants we are going to study, how the homestays help the  community, and how it all fits together.

Before dinner the village elders, a man and a woman dressed in traditional clothes came over to welcome the new guests with a Geeju ceremony, designed to keep bad spirits away. Everyone has white bands around their wrists now. Freshly cooked vegetarian Thai food was then delivered by two (out of several) young local women we have employed for the duration of the expedition – a welcome opportunity & source of extra income for them.

It was Talia’s turn after dinner to explain the background of the research, why we are here, what we will be doing and for what reason. And also, very practically, what data we are supposed to be collecting and how they are to be recorded in the datasheets. This was followed by lots of pictures of elephant behaviour and some elephant ID training.

Tomorrow we’ll spend half the day outside on an orientation walk, followed by more training in the afternoon. We’ll then have to pass a test after dinner before we are allowed to collect data. Wish us luck 😉

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