Wednesday 15 January 2014

The Elephant Conservation Centre, Laos - to the forest

Day two at ECC. I woke up early needing the loo, of course the bungalows are not en suite, so I had to pop down the path, the lake looked kinda eerie first thing…

Breakfast was at 7am, a choice of scrambled, fried eggs or omlette, toast baguette and a big fruit platter - I was seriously loving all the fresh fruit! After breakfast we met Ken and then it was off to the forest to fetch the elephants. We walked up and down for about 30 minutes to find their sleeping place, obviously elephants eat quite a lot so they get moved around each night.

They have to chain the elephants up so that they don't disappear off, never to be seen again, but the chain is 30m long and the elephants are smart enough not to get all tangled up. They were all impressing us, showing how they haul the chain back in using their trunk. Seeing an elephant out in the forest was amazing. 

There were 5 adults in our group and Ebi-kun, so he got to ride back and we had to walk! This time he was with the mahout which was just as well, the terrain was a little bit hairy!

Watching him go up this hill was scary, it was really steep and slippy clay, didn't seem to both the elephants though, nearly gave me heart failure trying to keep up! Ebi-kun said that going up hill was OK but going downhill was scary, I can relate to that, it is the same on a horse, although a horse isn't quite as far to fall.

It was back to the village for our mahout lesson.

Mahout class: This is where we learnt about the 3 different ways to get on an elephant (I would like to add that I had my own free-style technique that I doubt they will be teaching in mahout school anytime soon). We had to study the basic commands and then get on and try them out.

"Toy, Toy" (back, back)

"Pai, Pai" (forward)

"Haow" (Stop)

We all took turns practicing our new found skills and then it was bath time again for the elephants and lunch for us. One of the great things at ECC is that they put the elephants first, they need to eat for 12-15 hours a day and so shouldn't work for more than 6 hours. Unfortunately, elephants used for logging often end up working 10 hours or more, which is just not healthy. The elephants at ECC have an easy life now, no heavy work and plenty of rest and eating! 

What did we do after lunch, you will squeal with cuteness when you find out…

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