My favorite street sign in Pai is the ‘accident a head’ warning. I always have to smile when I see it, just because of the silly spelling mistake. A couple of days ago, some sort of ‘accident’ happened at the elephant camp.

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As usual, I had taken Tutdao into the mountains. Joy didn’t come along this time (only our French volunteer Nana joined me) so I had to put the chain around her leg all by myself.

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This wasn’t a problem since I had done it for the past weeks. Still, it felt weird leaving her in the wild without having Joy check the chain. As Nana and I made our way back down to the camp, I kept thinking ‘will she still be there tomorrow morning or will she have taken off her chain and left?’.

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When Joy and I went to get Tutdao the next morning, we discovered that she had indeed gone missing. At first, I was really worried that it was my fault. Her chain, however, was nowhere to be found. We soon discovered what had happened: Tutdao had broken the tree stump around which her chain had been tied, and run off with the chain still attached to her leg.

We then started to search for her. I initially thought this would be a hopeless mission.Where should we start looking? There were so many places where she could have gone to. Did she run into the jungle, into the fields, or towards the river? And how would we capture her?

Our most experienced Mahout, Chon, began to look for fresh tracks. He soon set off towards some adjacent fields. Until this day, I have no idea how he discovered her tracks and knew where to go, but we eventually reached a banana tree plantation with a lot of broken trees. Jackpot! After following the path Tutdao had ‘eaten’ into the plantation, we found her. Even though she must have heard us coming, she didn’t try to run from us. Joy simply called her to come (‘maa’) and she eventually obeyed.

I was quite relieved that everything had turned out well. Luckily, we didn’t have to pay the plantation’s owner for the damage Tutdao had caused. I secretly felt happy that she had enjoyed some freedom during the night. And while I am sure she had a blast eating all night, she looked full and sick for the rest of the day and did not touch any food…