I’ve decided it’s time for you to get to know my girls. Over the next few days, I’ll blog about each of our female elephants. They have completely different personalities, preferences, and habits (just like humans) and I hope you’ll enjoy learning about them just as much as I loved discovering them. While we do have a male, Joey (pronounce ‘Jo – eee‘), I don’t want to tell you too much about him. We initially wanted to use him for breeding but are now in the process of selling him because he is too dangerous and unpredictable to have around (he’s destroyed numerous trees, chains, rain barrels, etc.). In addition, we are short on staff who could take care of and train him. The whole thing is an experiment gone wrong; let’s just leave it at this.
Today, I’ll start with my favorite elephant in the whole wide world: Tutdao
Tutdao’s name means ‘movie star’ in English, and refers to her looooong eye lashes. Not to be biased, but she is the most beautiful elephant at the camp. She is probably in her mid thirties and she came to the camp about 10 years ago. Even though Tutdao is female, she has small tusks, which fools everybody into believing she is a male. However, she has them because of her size: as I mentioned in a previous post, Tutdao is the tallest and biggest elephant at the camp – and in the area, to be precise. She is a big, strong girl and can be intimidating at first sight (especially when she ‘growls’ at you, saying ‘thank you for feeding me bananas’), yet she is actually very friendly and doesn’t mind to be petted or touched (most elephants don’t like to be touched, they aren’t domesticated after all! If you want them to like you, feed them!).
Tutdao’s personality reflects her size: she is extremely stubborn and strong-minded. She knows what she wants (like, not going on mountain tours by herself) and is extremely good at not listening to anybody, except for her mahout (Joy) and our most experienced mahout Chon (and me, 70% of the time!). I have never seen her really angry – she tends to be a gentle giant – but she does get extremely jealous of the others if they are fed and she is forgotten. Once in a while, she will flick her trunk at Pom Paem to push her away from tourists who feed her bananas. She is extremely clever and picks up on small things immediately. For instance, if we need to get close to Joey, we take her, as she will understand what we need her to do.
When we go on tours, Tutdao has to walk in the front. I’m not sure why – perhaps she is a true movie star and needs to show off, or she is a natural leader… While her personality is strong, her body is weak. Tutdao gets tired easily, walks slowly and stops regularly. She has a weak back and can’t carry more than 3 people. She absolutely hates fat people, especially when they sit on her neck: she will not move one bit. When she is in her pen, she likes to dance (not because she is psychologically damaged due to being in captivity – I’ve seen Joy play music to her and she went crazy, moving her head, trunk and legs around – she simply enjoys it).
Tutdao absolutely loves swimming in the river. She enjoys throwing people into the water, playing with them as well as lying down and stretching out her legs, diving under with just her trunk sticking out. She hates dogs and will go after them if they come too close to her. She eats everything, even limes, which the others don’t like. I’ve fed her so much that she now expects a treat (leftover watermelon, papaya, bananas, coconuts, etc.) every time she hears or sees me. I can see her disappointment in her eyes when I don’t have any food for her, it’s adorable!
Through personal observations and by talking to the mahouts, I’ve come to the conclusion that elephants get along with people who have a similar personality. It’s always a certain type of person who likes our sweet elephant Ot, for example, or our crazy girl Pom Paem (I’ll tell you more about them in my next blog entries). So, after learning so much about Tutdao – who sees similarities between her and me?!
(P.s. She’s not crying in this entry’s top image – her eyes were running because of the heat. I have seen her cry though: there was constant water running down from her eye all the way to her tusk.)