Greenpeace Southeast Asia

H&L Diaries | Day 3 Chapter 2: We Hate Goodbyes by Chuck Baclagon

©Greenpeace/Lalitia Apsari & Hanifah Azzahra

Dear diary,

Before we say goodbye *sniff sniff*, we feel obligated to share the stories about the rest of the elephants (because we already mentioned Kajapatara and Dok Kaew’s love story).

The rest of elephants also have great stories or characters, this is why each of them has their own ’mahout’.  More than a trainer, a Mahout is a friend, a companion to the elephants, because they not only take care of them, they protect them from harm as well.  How a mahout establishes connection with an elephant is an interesting study – which could be explored maybe in the future (a sequel to the H&L diaries, perhaps).  And since each elephant has his/her own way of life, the mahout is the only one who understands the elephants more than anyone else.  So here are brief overviews of their stories:

Tong Dang (25 years)
Tong Dang is the one you would call the ”alpha male” of the group. He’s the most handsome and smartest.  His mahout told us that he LOVES children.  He’s happy when he sees children.  Physically, his tusks are long and have a perfect shape; his tail is long and is almost touching the ground; his head is also a perfect shape.  So apperance-wise, he’s an epitome of the perfect Asian Elephant.

Lao Tong a.k.a Miss Piggybank (47 years)
We don’t know how to illustrate this one except by saying that she’s the darling of the Chang(e) Caravan!  The team LOVES her for many, many reasons.  For us, we love her because of her very cute figure (she’s short and chubby and looks just like a piggybank).  At first, we wondered why she was oftentimes seperated from the group, and then we were told that she was the ”matriarch”, being the eldest elephant of the pack.  The other elephants, with the exemption of Tong Dang followed her (who’s not only the alpha male, but the most handsome at that, who can resist a handsome elephant?).

Chok Pra Tarn a.k.a Yala (45 years)
Yala has the most tragic story among the elephants.  Before coming to the conservation, he suffered a long journey before he found happiness.  He worked in one of the logging companies and the people there treated him very harshly.  He was toruted, beated and drugged to work day and night.  When he was transfered to the Khao Yai National Park, he still had trauma with humans.  He was paired with mahout after mahout and whenever humans came near him, he would become very aggresive.  These incidents kept on happening until his current mahout was paired with him.  Dr. Alongkot was very happy especially when he saw that Yala was interacting so calmly with the Greenpeace team in the Chang(e) Caravan (even without the presence of his mahout), which means he has ’healed’ from the trauma and is more comfortable wth the presence of humans.

It was an amazing experience to be with them, even for a short period of time.  And it’s sad to think that we won’t be hearing any of the elephant stories in the future if we keep on neglecting the importance of saving the forest- their habitat.  One elephant needs a territorial area of about 80-120 km².  This is one of the biggest concern because it comes in conflict with humans.  The smaller their habitat is, the higher the tendency for them to infiltrate farms and agricultural fields.  Chang(e) Caravan plays a very important role here because along the journey, they had several meetings and conferences with the communities about the elephant habitat with regards to elephant-human conflict.  With these efforts, the communities and farmers were enlightened about the plight of the elephants.

Southeast Asia is the most vulnerable and least prepared for climate change.  The condition in Thailand is also occuring throughout the world.  It’s heartbreaking to notice that this condition is also happening in our country, Indonesia.  With the fastest forest destruction rate in the world (Indonesia destroys about 51 square kilometers of forests every day, equivalent to 300 football fields every hour—Guinness Book of Records, 2007), we can’t imagine the damage to the habitat, the animals that will lose their homes and all the forest-dependant communities that will be greatly affected.  This 15 days journey of Chang(e) Caravan creates a new meaning of ”the power of the people”, because it has collected money or a ”small change” from the poorest communities that the caravan passed in Thailand, to symbolize one of the Greenpeace demands for a climate fund from the developed countries to help developing countries in fighting and adapting to climate change and protecting the forests.

If the poorest of the poor are willing to give money from their pockets, so should developed countries – since they have greater power to change this condition).

If you want to hear more good stories about Tong Dang, Yala, Dok Kaew, Kajapatra and Miss Piggybank and other animals stories; spread this message, tell people they have the power to make a change and act now!

”The future depends on what we do in the present” – Mahatma Gandhi

Our stories are only a tiny contribution to this project.
We will keep on spreading the message any way we can.
And surely this is not going to be the end of the H&L Diaries!

Thank you for reading our diary! ’Til our next entry!

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