With our training sessions complete, our team of citizen scientists set forth into the mountains to have their first encounter with the elephants and put faces and trunks to the names. After a 90 minutes walk from the base we found all five elephants socialising together in a large hilly clearing in the forest. We have two females, Too Meh (59 yo) and her daughter Mae Doom (25), and three males, Too-Meh’s grandsons Dodo (15) & Gen Thong (8), as well as Boon Rott (15), who is not related with the others. We had heard that over the last few month the elephants have been separating themselves into male and female groups, so it was a was a nice surprise to see them all together.
We spent the rest of the morning practicing our theory and learning how to identify each individual whilst taking down all the data correctly. After a picnic lunch in the forest, we walked back to the village. Back at base we practiced data entry into the computer.
In the afternoon the team was introduced to the biodiversity trail activity. In her presentation Alex explained the background of the science, the methodology and the species we are supposed to look out for and record on the datasheets.
On Thursday we went out to do our first full day survey, followed by an early morning on Friday to survey the elephants at first light. `In order to get a full picture of what our study objects are doing between 8:00 in the morning and 16:00 in the afternoon the survey hours change every day. Our goal is to complete two full data sets of every hour within. For the early morning survey, we set off in the dark with torch light and found the heard in the morning mist. Dodo led Anneke off into the forrest away from there rest of the group, never to be seen again – well, not until lunchtime. Henning was observing Too Meh, who led him down to the river and out of sight. Malika, Anna, Nick, Bianca, Anthony and Gesa, along with Kerri and Alex, all watched the story of the ever flirtatious Mae Doom and the ever ready Boon Rott having all their plans dashed by the constant interruptions of adolescent Gen Thong, who made sure to kill the mood by reversing into the middle of the couple. We’ll keep you posted if there’s any developments…