My time at BLES was supposed to be devoted to foot trimming for all the elephants and target training with Mee Chok. If I have learned anything during my travels in Asia, it is patience.
Elephants in Asia were never trained to receive foot care, which means they don’t bend their front foot backwards at the ankle to rest it on a trimming stool. Since my goal is to avoid causing the elephants stress, I have found other ways to accomplish trimming. One way that works very well is using a ramped raised area. The elephants walk up the ramp and hang their toes off the end for trimming. It works great. The elephants do not stress and I can trim the pad and the nails.
When I first arrived at BLES we looked around for an appropriate raised area but found nothing suitable. Kat got right on the project but it will be days before a sturdy elephant ramp can be constructed…so I will return to BLES for foot trimming.
My other purpose for going to BLES was to introduce Mee Chok to target training. Everyone was quite excited about the prospect. Mee Chok is a wonderfully docile calf with a loving family in Lom and Pang Tong, the ever protective matriarch. He has never been confined or chained since he’s been at BLES but we needed to create a fenced area to contain him during training.
Well, this was quite comical. The mahouts got right on the project and converted an open air stable into what resembled a boxing ring with ropes and chains strung horizontally to create a barrier.
Unfortunately it did not work. Lom wanted in with Mee Chok, who had no idea that the goal was for him to stay inside. Mee Chok was not nervous but he thought it was by accident that he had become separated from his family. He effortlessly climbed over the barrier, causing the mahouts to burst into laughter. The mahouts’ reaction is so refreshing. They do not begrudge the elephants for acting like elephants and using their superior intelligence to problem solve.
So, before we can start working with Mee Chok a corral needs to be erected. Once that is in place I will return to BLES, not only to provide foot care but also to instruct the eager mahouts on how to use target training with Mee Chok and the other elephants.
My time at BLES was not wasted. I was able to spend time with Kat and Anon hiking the new land they want to buy and learning about their plans for land expansion, fencing and the release of many of their elephants into a semi-wild, chain-free environment. I am in awe of the direction BLES is moving, a direction that definitely puts the elephants first.
I look forward to my return to BLES and want to thank all of you for making it possible for me to provide these services to elephants in Asia.