Today Chang Yim and So Sac, his mahout, had their first lesson in positive reinforcement training; they were fabulous! Little Chang Yim is not yet one year old and he is as sharp as a tack. He took to the training readily.
The language barrier was made easier by Kat, the mahout manager who speaks very good English. Within a couple of minutes and a handful of bananas Chang Yim was walking between two trainers, clearly understanding the training game.
At first I wondered how Chang Yim would do with all the distractions, including guests hand feeding the adult elephants in the same corral. He was unphased by the guests and the elephant blockades. It was great to see this little fellow weave around the adults, under chins and through legs to get to the mahout calling his name. He was brilliant. Of course it was all about the bananas.
It struck me that being a herd elephant was not a deterrent to the training session; in fact, his conditioning to live, eat and play alongside the family activities was an advantage. It should be no surprise that learning from his mahout in this environment would not be problematic.
I must admit that seeing Chang Yim respond to his mahout with such ease brought me great joy. Lek is determined to make sure that her baby elephants never experience the pain of traditional training. I know that Chang Yim has a chance to learn without experiencing negative reinforcement.