Last Day of the Health Camp

Close to 50 elephants participated in Dr. Mikota’s elephant health camp. Today was the final day, at least for the elephant examinations. Over the next several days samples will continue to be processed with results reported to the owners of the elephants. This is precedent-setting work. The owners voluntarily participated, enthusiastically in fact. Today one of the proud owners provided information about his recently acquired elephant complete with physical and behavioral information.

When one of the elephants became nervous about the exam, another mahout mounted on a young elephant  brought his elephant close to “her friend” with favorable results. The nervous elephant immediately settled down. The younger elephant touched her friend around her mouth and stomach in an obviously reassuring way. Their display of  friendship was tender and the mahout’s sensitivity was refreshing.

Our work is not done. While samples are being processes, records made, and treatments prescribed, Dr. Mikota will pursue other community related projects that will enhance elephant welfare while benefiting the community. As soon as these projects get the official go-ahead I will report on them. They are all very exciting.

Sauraha is a close knit community. Even though tourism is the backbone of their financial support, the daily activity of earning a living and caring for their families is the activity that is observed each day, from dawn until dusk. These are a happy people. Their connection to mother earth is the common thread that ties them together. Busy building new homes, resorts, replenishing dirt for planting, tending to the rice paddies, planting young plants that will later feed their family and tending to their animals is what occupies their daylight hours. The heat and absence of air conditioning brings them out onto rustic porches and stoops bordering the earthen roads after dusk. Children chase each other through the darkness while dogs cavort freely, homeless or not. The heat is forever present but a lightness fills the air. You are one with the community with a simple but genuine head nod and Namaste, which brings a beaming smile to a previously serious face. All is one; all is well with the world.

Elephant Care International’s Sauraha Elephant Health Camp

April 21                

Elephant Care International’s Sauraha Elephant Health Camp has been a well received service for privately owned elephants living outside of Chitwan National Park.  ECI’s efforts to gain the trust of the thirty-something private owners, who collectively own nearly 50 elephants, has proven successful. The owners are unanimously participating in this health camp; a testament to ECI’s efforts.

On this second day of the camp, seven elephants showed up for examination. How fortunate I am to be involved. The veterinarians, technicians, mahouts and elephants flowed together in a synchronized dance, collecting throat cultures, nasal drip, blood, urine and fecal samples, body temperature, respiration and pulse. Translators helped to bridge the language gap, making the process more efficient. The elephants, all Kali (female) so far, have responded to the Camp individually, and collectively have demonstrated receptivity to the experience.  The reality is that most, if not all of these girls have never before walked onto a portable scale nor provided the many samples requested of them. They have all responded incredibly well.

It did not take long for the mahouts to understand that the ECI team prefers that they practice patience with their elephants. For some the concept of a gentler approach had never been considered; they responded favorably.  Not surprisingly, the mahouts demonstrated a capacity for innovation when met with the challenge of collecting samples. Some of the younger mahouts responded to sample collection requests with wide eyes, and a non committal head tilt accompanied by a somewhat nervous giggle.

The more seasoned mahouts listened intently to the translated directions, then immediately set out to accomplish the task. It soon became evident that the more advanced mahouts reveled in flaunting their superior skills. The resulting competition between mahouts proved beneficial. Over all the elephants are in good shape. None are overweight. The ankus is not used to pull and push the elephant so hook wounds are not an issue.

Getting a throat culture with an extra long Q-tip

Living on natural sub straight and in an appropriate climate has benefited the elephants greatly. Improving the standard of living for these and other elephants in captivity begins with education and improved health care. The elephants of Sauraha, their owners and mahouts have embarked on a journey destined to change their lives for the better. I am so thankful to be a part of the process.