Ot is my second favorite elephant at the camp. Her name means ‘tadpole’ in English, which does not make sense at all since Ot is neither agile nor small. On the contrary, Ot is one big, fat, greedy (!) elephant that has perfected the art of making people love her in order to get bananas. She will look at you innocently with her big brown eyes – but if you don’t give her food, these will quickly turn dark and mean. Compared to the others, Ot’s eyes show the most emotions, which range from happiness and excitement to fear, anger or boredom.

IMG_4347aI have to admit that I wasn’t too fond of Ot at the beginning. Aged around 45, Ot is the oldest, calmest and most mature elephant at the camp. For the longest time I thought of her as a boring elephant without any distinct personality or quirks. Therefore, I never gave her much attention or food. She got back at me by ignoring my commands and by almost kicking me during a tour one day. Nothing happened as she only meant it as a warning (she slowly lifted her leg up and stretched it out towards me), but it did cause many laughs among the mahouts. And even though things between Ot and me are good today, I have never again tried to control her on a tour. I’ve learned my lesson.

When Ot’s mahout, my friend Chon, took a small vacation, he asked me to look after her. As I started to spend more time with her, I noticed how smart she is. Ot can open her pen, for example. She will slide the bars to the side and try to sneak out to steal bananas before anybody notices what’s going on. In addition, she knows exactly how to balance being sweet, kind, friendly and gentle (‘Look at me, I’m cute!) and being demanding towards tourists (‘Hand me those bananas or I won’t let you touch me!’). Whereas Tutdao tends to intimidate people, Ot is more careful with them. I strongly believe that Ot’s personality is sweet and kind, but I also believe she is calculating and has learned that behaving in a certain way attracts more people (which translates into more bananas… clever girl!).

Another peculiarity: Ot is the pickiest eater at the camp. If her bamboo grass is not green and lush, she will not eat it. If it is green and lush, she will only eat the leaves. She hates green bananas, black bananas, bananas with ants, limes, sandy fruits, anything that barely touched her poo; the list goes on and on. Whereas Tutdao and Pom Paem eat everything, Ot acts like a spoiled child. If she doesn’t like what’s in front of her, she will honk at you every 20 seconds until you obey and bring something else for her to eat. She’s somewhat the real ‘movie star’.

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Unfortunately, Ot got hit by a car before she came to the camp. Her back leg got hit badly and never healed properly, thus she goes on less tours than the other two.  In addition, she’s now scared of cars and motorbikes (I can’t blame her). She will stop with eyes wide open whenever she hears one approaching. Her leg, however, doesn’t stop her from doing her favorite move, i.e. lifting people up with her trunk and, if not told to stop, heaving them over the bars into her pen. She expects food in return (duh!) and will keep trying to lift you up until you get her something. A gentle nudge with her head or trunk towards the pile of grass should do the trick as well. If this passive aggressive behaviour doesn’t work in her favor, she will start to honk. It comes at no surprise that Ot is greatly overweight and often perceived as being our pregnant elephant, does it?