Greenpeace Southeast Asia


What do ancient elephant poachers and Greenpeace have in common? by Chuck Baclagon
A mahout elder stands before an elephant while waiting to perform a Pa-Kam ritual, a traditional ceremony to call on mahout ancestors for for good luck and safety before an elephant journey.

A mahout elder stands before an elephant while waiting to perform a Pa-Kam ritual, a traditional ceremony to call on mahout ancestors for for good luck and safety before an elephant journey.

September 12, 2009

We launched the Chang(e) Caravan last Saturday with a traditional Thai mahout ceremony called the Pak-Am. Now, if you knew what the Pak-Am was originally, you’d wonder why on earth it would be part of a Greenpeace project launch!

The ritual’s origins can be traced to a centuries old Khmer (now Cambodia) practice –a mahout prays for safety before he goes into the jungle to catch elephants.  In other words, it’s a ritual that originated with elephant poaching.  Yes–you read that right –elephant poaching.

Interesting, eh?  But these days, now that elephant poaching is (thankfully) illegal, the Pak-Am has taken on a milder forms.

One is as a rite of passage for mahouts—to be a respected mahout one has to pass the Pak-Am.  (In the past, this meant that the mahout had to have caught 11 to 16 elephants.)

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