EVT Study Trip to Kui Buri, in Search of Wild Elephants - Part 1

March 3, 2019

In Spring 2018 we gave away a Spring Grant to a project working towards improving the welfare of elephants in Thailand. The grant was awarded to Elephant Valley Thailand (EVT) to study wild elephants.


EVT is a small boutique elephant sanctuary modelled on the Elephant Valley Project in Cambodia. They have 6 elephants and 15 hectares of land. Now that the elephants have been rehabilitated to a satisfactory degree, EVT are starting to work on their second Thai location to teach elephants migratory habits and to live without mahouts and chains so they can develop the infrastructure needed to reintroduce captive elephants into the wild. 

 

Below Jack from EVT explains what the Spring Grant helped to fund....

 

"Originally we were meant to head to Lampang to study the work of the Thai Elephant Reintroduction Foundation but after a brief meeting with their staff in August we were unable to arrange dates due our and the foundations mutually busy and complicated schedule.

Instead we turned to the village rangers and Department of National Parks staff, at Kui Buri, to teach us more about wild elephants in a trip that turned into an enormous exchange of information and knowledge that has resulted in an invitation to return and repeat this incredible trip.

 

Our Goals

1) To experience elephants in their natural habitat so we can emulate their environment and behaviour during the process of rehabilitating captive elephants.

2) To experience human elephant conflict so we can better develop ways of keeping elephants in their natural habitat.

 

Getting to Kui Buri

In November 2018, I left with Ek, Ka Moons Mahout and Yat, our Head of Maintenance for an early Air Asia flight from Chiang Rai to Bangkok. This was a very interesting experience because Ek had once been on a plane for 20mins but never to Bangkok and Yat had never been on a plane before. After this we got lost in Bangkok as the minibus station to Hua Hin had moved, after much searching we headed to Morchit and found a bus and travelled to Kui Buri directly.

When we arrived and was met by the homestay owner. Incredibly one of our staff booked the wrong guesthouse but the man who came to pick us up was exactly the right person we wanted to talk to. We then quickly fell into a rapid conversation that lasted the next two days and after travelling for an hour an half to drop off our bags we promptly met up with the local volunteer rangers and headed out to spot some wild elephants.

 

Kui Buri itself is a fascinating location. Essentially it is a large valley that is divided in three; the first third to the north has been reclaimed by the government and much effort has been put in over the last 25yrs to regrow the natural environment. It is populated by a healthy population of Gaur and a good number of elephants. It is one of the few locations in Thailand where you can see wild elephants on a daily basis.
The second third to the south is the main area that is affected by elephants crop raiding; it is a myriad of pineapple and rubber farms that are ringed by a myriad of home made electric fences that are patrolled by numerous farmers and volunteer rangers.

The last third sees little activity from elephants and has a higher population of people.

 

Keeping the Elephants at Bay

The local volunteer rangers go out on a daily basis with bags of firecrackers and look for wild elephants that are raiding farms. Either they get a phone call from a farmer saying there is an elephant or two in their farm and they rush over and drive it out or they drive around until they find elephants and then heard them out with trucks or more firecrackers. They are a little disorganised but mean well.
Interestingly the local farmers have essentially become nocturnal in order to protect their crops; they sleep in a myriad of huts, wooden towers or trucks waiting to hear the sounds of elephants eating pineapple or breaking tree branches.


And crop ‘raiding’ it is, the elephants essentially perform hit and run attacks on the farms. During the day the elephants tend to stay in the cool of the forest and are rarely seen but as night falls they sneak along the boundary of the protected forests looking for unpowered electric fences. When people find them the elephants quickly turn and run back to the forest to perform another raid elsewhere."

 

To be continued.....

You can learn more about EVT on our list of Ethical Venues.

 

 

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