My return flight to Los Angeles leaves from Bangkok, which was the perfect excuse to go back to Elephant Nature Park one more time to see the progress made by Chang Yim and Karl.
Yim never ceases to impress me. He has made yet another transition from Karl to his new mahout, Lai. Karl has worked diligently over the past many weeks training Lai, and Yim has been a real trouper. There is no doubt in my mind that Chang Yim will miss the special relationship between him and Karl, but Yim has a bigger mission. He has the opportunity to teach a “traditional” mahout a different way, a more humane and gentler way to manage him and his family members. This move from Karl to Lai is actually quite monumental in the big picture…Yim is the catalyst for change. I am so proud to know him.
In addition to satisfying my curiosity about Yim’s progress, my return to ENP was to give Karl some pointers on training the elephants to place their leg on the trimming stool recently built for back foot trims. Once the elephants are trained, I will be able to return and finish the foot care clinic I started.
Mae Tee and Mae Kham Geao were our first students. The initial hurdle was getting the ladies to start thinking for themselves, no easy task for elephants who for decades had been conditioned not to think. The training was slow and at times appeared to be at a standstill, but, I could see the wheels slowly beginning to turn in their heads. Patience was the key.
After two days, my time at the park was up. Karl was well on his way to conditioning Mae Tee and Mae Kham Geao to voluntarily lift their back legs, a requirement in order to slide a trimming stood underneath for support. I felt torn leaving—I always do—but I had confidence that Karl would do just fine.
Today, a little before four, I received a call from Karl. At first I was apprehensive because Faa Mai is experiencing some unidentified health issue. But the news was all good: Faa Mai seems a little better. But the reason Karl had called was not to update me on Faa Mai, it was to tell me that Mae Tee and Mae Kham Geao got it! They were lifting their back legs off the ground and suspending them in the air when asked. The both of them!
What do you bet they talked about it over the past two days? It comes as no surprise that both ladies, dear friends who spend all their time together, figured out what Karl wanted in the same training session. Karl was so pleased, and WOW — what can I say. I am so proud of everyone involved in this work: Karl, Dam (the Maes’ mahout), Jody and Sophie (treat givers) and especially Maes Tee and Kham Geao, the ladies of the hour. I sure wish I could have been there to share in the cheers and congratulations showered on the ladies, but I was there in spirit. Planting the seed and seeing it grow, one World, one elephant at a time — in this case, two elephants at a time!