On Friday we had a later start to our surveying at noon, this is to allow us, over the time of all our surveys, to observe the elephants throughout a whole day. We set off at 10:00, just as the torrential rain started. Within a couple of minutes the paths through the village and to the elephants morphed into a grade 1 kayak rapid. But we did make it to the elephants.
When we arrived, it was clear that the behaviour we had observed yesterday with Mae Doom and Boon Rott was probably due to Mae Doom coming into estrous (heat). The elephants made their way on to the steep slopes of the forest and began the daily task of pulling down bamboo sprouts and chomping between 200-400 kg of leaves, bark, branches, wild flowers and herbs. There was a bit of excitement when a woman herding buffalo panicked at the sight of the elephants and ran away, leaving the buffalos to work it out for themselves, which, it turns out spooked the elephants a little. Thankfully one of the mahouts, Leo, took care of the buffaloes and another mahout took Gen Thong and Mae Doom down the steep-sloped forest to the river, out of harm’s way. Kerri, Anna, Anneke and myself followed them as they eventually made their way back to Too Meh, the faithful matriarch of the herd, who had missed all the excitement, and was taking advantage of some peace and quiet and had been foraging, blissfully unaware.
Nick had been with Dodo, who once again was heading along a track toward a village way off in the distance and Henning was with Boon Rott, who was contented with foraging in the forest until his mahout led him to the river for a long drink.
When we all met up to head back to camp, Malika and Bianca told us that they had seen the woman who fled, leaving her buffalo. She was still anxiously looking down into the wood and wondering if the elephants were still there…
Saturday morning, part of the group (Anna, Anneke, Alex, Bianca and Anthony) left straight after breakfast to do a biodiversity trail. Our task was to space ourselves 1 m apart and face in alternating directions on a 200 m transect and count all arthropods you can see within a 30 sec period before moving along, until you reach the end of the run.
Then our group reformed for elephant surveying. Anneke was watching Boon Rott bathing in a muddy puddle up in the hills. Mae Doom and Too Meh were foraging in a large sloping field, joined by young Gen Thong, who seemed to forever be in the middle of them both, acting restlessly and having a few comedy stroppy moments, rolling around on the floor looking for attention. For those of us watching them, Anna, Gesa, Henning and Malika, it was interesting and amusing at the same time. Alex and Nick, meanwhile, were not in the jungle following the elephants through thick and thin, but were observing from the comfort and shade of a farmer’s hut perched in a perfect viewpoint at the top off the hill… 😉