After our regular morning chores we had a couple of shorter walks with the elephants. The first, before lunch, was through the forest. There’s always a trade-off. This was bugs for shade. It’s amazing to watch the elephants eat bamboo (one of their favorites). They wrap their trunk around a stem of the bamboo and pull, but with just enough strength to strip the leaves off and leave the thick branches. It’s incredible what they can do with their trunk! It’s like an arm and hand, no bones, very muscular and flexible. The manipulation is fascinating.
The second and slightly longer walk was after lunch. We spent more time on the road. Imagine seeing that come down the highway at home! It was HOT, so we were all glad to have this end in another swim to bathe the elephants.
There’s a lot of elephant butts in my photos. 🙂 There’s a reason for that. You would much rather be behind them than in front of them if there’s someplace they want to go. We get phenomenally close to these elephants, but that does not mean they are ‘safe’ from being an elephant. You must constantly be aware of your surroundings and on the walks especially. For such a large animal they are very quiet coming up behind you. It’s a bit of a shock to look over your shoulder when you sense someone is trying to pass you and what you see is a blurry glimpse of a trunk and ear as they try to catch up with their friends.
I fed one of the babies today. This little guy was taken from his mother when he was about a year old. Babies will stay on mother’s milk for about three years. As a result he is malnourished. The owner can’t care for him properly and has agreed to let the Surin Project give him free food and care. He gets four bottles of rice mush with milk powder every morning. Have you ever seen anything so adorable?!
It was a quick trip out to the sugar cane field to cut today’s food for the elephants. The mahouts came with us and brought their machetes. We let them cut the sugar cane…they seemed to know what they were doing. 🙂 Within minutes they had cut enough food to fill the truck. That’s where we came in. Load the truck.
Today is a long day for the elephants off their chains. We do a 5-6 mile walk with the elephants that ends in a swim… for everybody. This was incredible. The elephants LOVE the water and when we go in with them we can bath them. Basically, we give the elephants a good scrub with our hands. An elephant massage, really. After the long walk we were all enjoying the river.
Finally, before dinner we hit the local market. They sell EVERYTHING! From fruit and vegetables to donuts and pig’s heads, clothes to tools. Feeling a bit parched, I ordered a soda. It was given to me in a bag with a straw. Not the can or bottle in a bag, mind you. No. The gentleman opened the bottle and poured it over ice into the bag and put a straw in it. I browsed around, not looking for anything in particular as I sipped my bag of soda.