Greenpeace Southeast Asia

H&L Diaries | Day 2 Chapter 1: Alongkot, Born for Chang by Chuck Baclagon

©Greenpeace/Albert LozadaDear diary,

Throughout our trip, we met several amazing people—one of which was Dr. Alongkot Chukaew, the director of Thai Elephant Research and Conservation Fund (TREF).  If you want to know anything about elephants—from their physical appearance to their behavior—he’s the best person to ask.

As it turns out, he has a very sentimental reason of why he’s enamored with the elephants. “I love elephants because of my mother”, he said. “When my mother was pregnant with me, she wanted to see elephants so badly so she went to a zoo far away from home. When I was young, she would always show me the pictures she had with the elephants”, he added while explaining to us how her mother kept on telling him of how important the elephants are as part of their belief as Thais.

Young Alongkot who has developed love and curiosity for the elephants, tried to learn elephants through a very unusual way.  That is, by observing their……”poop”.

(Yes, poop).

He said that the waste tells so much about the elephant: what they eat, their way of life, their health, etc.  Growing up, his love and connection with the elephants grew to a whole new level, so he decided to observe the elephants more closely.  Dr. Alongkot stayed in one jungle after another for 12 years to track the elephants and study them until he was able to establish a strong relationship with them.

One of the most memorable moments he had was with a pregnant elephant separated from the herd.  He tracked a pregnant elephant traveling with a herd of wild elephants.  He stayed with the herd for quite a long time but lost track of them.  After a while, the pregnant elephant gave birth somewhere and together with her child, went back to Dr. Alongkot’s campsite. There, she let Dr. Alongkot play with her youngster.

The other memorable moment was when a young male elephant that was separated from the herd came to the campsite (young elephants stick with their herd until they are old enough to form their own herd; if the young elephants are separated such as in this case, it is difficult for them to survive in the wild).  “I was in my campsite when this young elephant came to me.  He walked towards me and we got so close, we stared at each other.  I felt like he was trying to communicate that he was lonely”, said Dr. Alongkot. Afterwards, he became friends with the elephant, and took care of him until he was able to get back on his feet.

©Greenpeace/Sataporn ThongmaWe were very touched by the elephant stories of Dr. Alongkot.  That was when we realized the urgency to save the animals, protect their habitat and biodiversity has reached the ultimate level.  The elephant is not the only animal that’s threatened by forest destruction and climate change.  According to Dr. Alongkot, to protect the elephant means to protect the whole ecosystem because elephants are among the animals that belong in the top of food chain.

The world needs a lot of people like Dr. Alongkot.  We hope you can be one too.

-Hani and Lalit-

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