Today, Thai is a popular auntie to many elephants and spends her days grazing, looking after the young and generally enjoying her retirement. She will continue to live out her years in peace surrounded by her new and ever growing family.
Thai is behaving like an elephant who is particularly happy with her lot in life.
Most of the time Thai spends keeping her eye on her adopted family group, socialising with the other adult elephants in her gang and keeping young Tong Jan and Aura in line. Thai lavishes affection on the two little ones and in turn they seem to enjoy rubbing up against her. There is plenty of trunk contact between them and a strong emotional bond.
Thai’s relationship with Hope is also interesting. Fairly often they indulge in their bouts of play fighting and they push and charge at each other in a playful way for up to an hour. As well as being very entertaining and fascinating to watch it is interesting to speculate the reasions behind this behaviour. Is it simply playful fun or something more significant? Thai may be teaching Hope that he is still just a youngster and somewhat off being an adult bull or it could be that Hope is challenging and testing his strength, preparing for adulthood. For the moment the meaning of this behaviour if unclear but it is something we shall continue to observe.
The Life of Thai
This page is dedicated to the life of Thai. It lets you know her life story and what she has been up to recently. If you would like to start at the beginning of her life start at the bottom of the page and scroll up. This page is updated regularly.
October 2006 Taking Charge
It is extraordinary how the lives of elephants can change so dramatically in such a short period of time. Prior to July 2005, Thai spent the vast majority of her time with her close friend Siam. Besides showing an interest in Max, she did not seem to care for relationships with other elephants and was in fact very dismissive of young elephants and was even known to lash out at them with her feet.. We were therefore very concerned about Thai when Siam passed away. However, Thai surprised everybody by finding subsequent solace and friendship with Mae Bua Tong, Tong Jan and most surprising of all, arch enemy Som Boon. She quickly became auntie to Tong Jan and matriarch to the small family unit.
This year, Thai appears to have taken her role even further in welcoming Mae Elu, Mae Khamsai and her infant Aura into her new found family. It is the largest family group at the park and Thai is heading it. She can often be seen taking an interest in the babies and leading the group from one spot to another.
Thai is also the first elephant to check out new arrivals at the Park. Whenever a new elephant is rescued, she is invariably the one that first goes to introduce herself and check the new arrivals over. It appears that she is looking for new recruits to join her ever-growing family. For example when Thong Kam and her baby arrived, Thai spent quite a lot of time with them, although in the end they did not join the group ? perhaps Thai was too pushy!
Thai?s growing confidence has also seen an increase in interaction with elephants outside the group. She still appears to have a special relationship with the bull, Max, but she is not so dismissive of other elephants and communicates with them by sound, touch and smell. One of the most important roles of a matriarch is to communicate with other elephants so if Thai has decided to fulfil this role she is clearly taking her responsibilities seriously.
This week, we also observed a long period of play fighting with Hope, something which Thai would never have countenanced before.
Despite the tendency to be prickly towards other elephants Thai and Som Boon, previously one of her adversaries, are very sweet to each other. Thai is particularly intolerant of juvenile Hope and has chased him away on numerous occasions.
Thai has been taking her ?auntie? duties very seriously and is a very protective of little Tong Jan and is never very far away from her. The baby has been known to nurse from her and their family group is very tight knit. The auntie guardians are often left in charge when mother, Bua Tong needs to take herself off for some peace and quiet.
Thai?s interest in Max had waned when baby Tong Jan came to the Park. However recently she has begun to pay closer attention to him again. It is difficult to tell whether this renewed love interest is because she is now secure in her role of ?auntie? or because Max is thought to be coming into musth.
Thai greatly enjoys feeding in a low-lying area of very lush vegetation between the road and the river when a group of the elephants go for a morning walk with their mahouts; the rest of the small herd browses up the side of the hill, while Thai is in her element in the greenery below – and somewhat reluctant to leave!
Our fears that Thai would suffer depression after the death of her constant companion Siam have happily proved completely unfounded. Much to our surprise she is revelling in a new role as auntie to EleAid’s youngest rescue Tong Jan.
Tong Jan and her mother Mae Bua Tong arrived at the Nature Park in July but the last thing anyone expected was any interest from Thai. Previously she has shown only disdain for young elephants. She was renowned for chasing juveniles away from her and has been known to give those that strayed too close a stout kick. It appears however that Tong Jan has melted her heart and Thai now accompanies mother and baby wherever they go.
Stranger still is that another adult female, Som Boon, has also joined the group. Previously her and Thai were known not to like each other but now due to their shared love of the ten month old calf they are the best of friends and rarely more than a few metres from each other.
We are delighted that Thai is revelling in her new family but heaven knows what goes on in the minds of elephants!
July 2005 – A new family
We have had some wonderful news from Lek at the Nature Park. Thai has joined a new family group ? with the two new EleAid elephants! She has joined forces with Mae Bua Thong and her calf. Two other elephants also seem keen on joining the family which will provide Thai with all the support she needs. An email sent by Lek shows just how wonderful the scene was:
?I have some very good news that Thai have join the group with Mae Bua Tong . I hardly stop my tears when I saw it. It was so amazing how she walked to the herd ( Mae Bua Tong , Mae Elu, Mae Khamsai and baby) normally Thai didn’t like baby at all, and she quite pushy to any elephant , but this time she tried so hard for the herd to accept her to stay in the group and she tried hard with the baby to come to be under her .
It was so beautiful to see her walk and turn the bum to them and let them know that she won’t hurt any of them. She kept follow them in to the field and walk to the baby. Until yesterday they accepted her join the herd.?
June 2005 – A sad day for Thai
June saw one of the worst months Thai has had to face since arriving at the Nature Park. Her best friend and soulmate, Siam, passed away. She loyally stayed by Siam?s side throughout the duration of the illness and helped Siam regain a lot of her strength by being there for her friend. Sadly, on the 13th June, Thai was faced with a life without Siam. There was huge concern for Thai?s welfare. She and Siam were inseparable and Thai relied on Siam for guidance every day.
Luckily, Thai had formed a friendship with Max and she was taken to him straight after Siam?s death. She remained by his side for the next couple of weeks which helped her cope with her loss. (Elephants are the only animals apart from humans to mourn over death). She seems to be coping much better than anyone could have hoped and while she will never forget her friend, she has shown that she has the ability to move on.
February 2005 – A Friend Indeed
Max has been in musth for two months now and despite the fact that his mahout Karl cannot get too close and other elephants won?t go near him, two elephants have stood by him throughout. Thai and Siam have been by his side since he first went into musth. Both elephants have lost some weight, as they would not eat because Max would not. For a while he would not let any other elephant near him but slowly another elephant at the Park started to gain his trust. Son Boon was becoming a frequent visitor to Max and neither Thai nor Siam liked this. This visiting soon turned into a long stay ? forcing Thai and Siam to watch from a distance. All the two elephants could do was call to Max hoping that they would once again become his chosen allies. Sure enough this has happened. Son Boon had to leave Max as her family needed her. Thai and Siam are back with Max and all three are very content to spend the days together.
March 2005 – What a Commotion
Since arriving at the Nature Park, Thai has been renowned for her disapproval and contempt for most of the other elephants around her. She has no patience with the babies, is terrified of the dogs and needs constant reassurance from Siam. The blind elephant at the Park, Jokia, has a similar temperament but is a lot more nervous. Feeding time is often a hectic affair with so many elephants to feed and all of them wanting all of the bananas. Thai usually manages to secure her place next to Siam but one particular afternoon, found herself next to Jokia. Before anyone could stop her, she turned round to shoo a dog away but in the process, she knocked Jokia over. There was complete uproar and a very guilty looking Thai sloped away to find comfort in Siam. Jokia is now incredibly wary of Thai and Thai has since made sure that she never ventures far from Siam’s side at feeding time.
September 2004 – Two can Play at that Game.
Thai and Siam do everything together, they are rarely far from each other?s side and now they have found themselves both trying to win over Max?s attention.
In the past when Siam has shown an interest in other males at the Park, Thai has flown into a fit of jealous rage, often chasing the pursuing male away. She cannot bear the thought of another elephant getting too close to Siam. A bull elephant that was showing a lot of interest in Siam learned his lesson as Thai charged at him roaring and trumpeting. He was left to chase after Siam with Thai close on his tail. Things seem to be different with Max. She has decided to join her best friend and now all three elephants are never far away from each other.
July 2004 – Bath Time
Thai and Siam may be inseparable but when it comes to having a bath, Thai is quick to leave Siam?s side. Thai loves the water – all of her fears are forgotten and she immediately absorbs herself in the treat of having a bath. She is as playful as the babies in the river, lying on the riverbed underneath the water occasionally squirting those around her with water from her trunk. When someone climbs on to her to bathe her, she turns over to get up and behaves in a similar way to a Bucking Bronco giving that lucky person an experience to remember forever.
Eating aside, she is at her happiest in the river and she shows it with her low groans and constant squeaking.
Once out of the river, she likes nothing better than a feast on cornhusks with Siam back by her side.
April 2004 – Thai Remains Wary of Baby Elephants
After some worry over her health last month, Thai has found renewed strength and is as healthy as ever. The move to the new park has certainly kept her on her toes. Her fear of almost everything that moves has not lessened, but thankfully Siam is always by her side for comfort when it all gets a bit too much. Baby elephants have proved to be of great concern to Thai. Whenever one of them gets too close she is quick to protect herself and lunges at the calf with her trunk. This of course never goes down too well with the baby?s mother – more often than not resulting in a shove and a trumpet before Thai quickly retreats to Siam.
One hot April day however, Thai behaved most unusually. She was happily grazing on elephant grass when a mother and baby walked by. She found this all a little too curious and began to follow them. The mother, unsurprisingly nervous of Thai, quickly turned round and charged. Thai span round and ran back to the safety of Siam squeaking and trumpeting letting the whole park know that something was wrong. Her newfound curiosity was short lived and it was not long before she was back to pushing every baby out of her sight.
Life at the Haven
Thai now lives at the Elephant Nature Park with Siam, Max – EleAid’s third elephant – and many other elephants. Daily routine includes bathing and playing the river and a feast of bananas. At night, Thai is free to roam around the haven. Compared to life in the circus or on the streets of Bangkok, Thai’s new life at the haven is heavenly.
January 2003 – The trek to freedom
After a very frustrating month of waiting, Chas and Rachel were ready to embark on the campaign. Together with both elephants, and the family of mahouts, the journey began. Both elephants were met in Ayutthia, just North of Bangkok. Thai seemed very nervous, which was a big worry. She would try to get as far away as possible from the surrounding people and did not look happy at all. It was clear to all that she had not been treated well. Siam, on the other hand, was the complete opposite – very trusting and content. The trek began and Thai was still very nervous. Her mahout warned that she could only be handled by himself, and at the time that was fairly plain to see. A week into the campaign, something quite unexpected happened.
There were disagreements in the camp and the family of mahouts left, leaving Chas, Rachel and their interpreter alone with the two elephants. All three were inexperienced in looking after elephants and unsure what was to happen. By the end of the next day, Thai’s character had completely changed. She was no longer skittish and afraid. She was always the first to come when food was involved and her and Siam began showing each other lots of affection. It was in these few days that Chas and Rachel really began to learn about the elephants they now owned.
Thai started to show a really stubborn side that was very amusing, and her true playful character really began to shine. A few days after the original mahouts left, two new ones arrived. They spent an hour walking Thai and Siam round, with the help only of their voices. It was then that it was made clear that Thai was pregnant.
As the trek progressed, so did the friendship between Thai and Siam. They would spend hours communicating with each other, by squeaking, trumpeting and groaning. They also loved to put their trunks in each other’s mouth – which shows the highest form of trust between two elephants. Walking would be done in the morning. The day’s trekking was over by lunchtime and both Thai and Siam were at the peak of fitness. They knew when the day’s walking was over and they would begin their daily ritual of squeaks. The afternoons were taken up with baths and eating. Although pink, she was never as clean as the day she was fist seen in Surin. Thai loves nothing better than a good mud bath and is frequently covered from head to foot in dirt. It became clear to all during the trek that Thai relied heavily on Siam. Siam would stand over her while she slept, and if Thai was unsure of anything she would ‘have a go’ as long as Siam had done it first. This was the case for most things, apart from horses. She encountered what is thought to be her first sighting of a rather small horse, and immediately ran for safety. The only problem with this was that it was into a field with cows – another one of her new found phobias. No amount of food would coax her away from the fence where she felt safe. After endless offers of food, and numerous attempts by Siam to lead her out, the cows were lead away and Thai finally felt safe enough to venture back on to the road.
November 2002 – A new start for Thai
Charles ‘Chas’ Begley and Rachel Jones decided to embark on a conservation campaign, Bringing The Elephants Home, which was to be a trek across Thailand promoting awareness about the Asian Elephant. All they needed were two elephants. They travelled to Surin for the annual round up because if an elephant could not be found here, it was unlikely that any would be found at all. After viewing many potential elephants, they were taken ‘backstage’ where a beautiful pink elephant stood tied to a tree. They were immediately struck by her distinctive features and after a second meeting decided she was one of the two lucky ones. She would have the chance of a new life along with her ‘soulmate’ Siam. The pair cam from the same village and were obviously very close to one another. With the ownership papers signed, it was just a question of waiting before the trek could begin.
1980 – A life on the streets
When Thai was just twelve years old, she left the life of a circus behind and was bought by another owner to earn money in the streets of Bangkok. She would spend night after night with her mahout trailing round busy tourist areas begging for money. This had a damaging effect on Thai’s eyesight – she is now blind in one eye. City life is a very lonely life for elephants. They spend their days chained up in the sweltering heat in wasteland and their night walking on busy roads ‘entertaining’ tourists.
During this period, Thai travelled back to her birthplace every November for an annual elephant round up. It is a festival celebrating the life of the domesticated elephant. Thai was used to performing and used to many people staring at her, so performing at this festival was nothing new for her.
It was here that her luck and destiny changed.
1971 – Thai begins her path to adulthood.
Although not much detailed history is known about Thai, we do know that her innocent childhood was cut short because when Thai was just 3 years old, she was sold to a circus family and taken away from her mother. Thai developed a very distinctive look, with pink pigmentation all over her face and ears, which helped her to be a big hit in the circus. She carried on performing in shows until 1980.