Meet my new friend Poojon. He's 8 years old and weighs 1500 kg! He's a growing boy - he eats about 300 lbs of rice, bananas, grass, molasses every day!
I met Poojon, an Asian elephant, in Chiang Mai He lives with 34 other adopted and elephants born at Patara Elephant Farm/Sanctuary. Patara is owned by a Thai couple and the goal is care and sustainability of the loval elephant population. The elephants have a good life on the farm- no logging duties, no abuse, no tricks to perform - they just do their daily elephant business (play, scratch their backs on trees, get exercise, and eat, eat, eat!) - they seem pretty happy!
Poojon was the first baby elephant ever born on the farm - his name means "Moonlight" in Thai because he was born under a full moon. His mother, who is now 38 years old also lives at the sanctuary. Both elephants will be there for a long time because they can live to age 80 - or until the last of their 6 sets of teeth fall out - then they can't eat anymore and they die.
I had so much fun learning how to care for Poojon - I actually had to get him to sit down (saying "Nonlong Poojon!) to brush all the dirt off him, then had to bathe him in the river (hard work to scrub an entire elephant while they're blowing water at you!), then make sure he was healthy by (1) making sure he had sweaty toes (that's where elephants sweat!), (2) checking his poo (5-8 lumps the size of softballs required!), (3) I even had to pick up a turd lump - rip it open to SMELL IT! (it smelled like grass so Poojon's healthy), inspect it to make sure all the food was digested, THEN (4) squeeze it till green water ran out all over my hands to make sure it was moist and that Poojon was drinking enough water! Yet another kind of gross experience from my travels....
We learned 3 ways of getting up and down the elephant - one way is by climbing up and down his trunk and over his head - which is great - but my gave was holding onto the tough part of his ear, nudging his front leg - which he bent at the knee so I could climb up like a ladder- stepping on his heel then his thigh while he raised his leg even higher, and I was launched onto his neck. Really fun!! You have to ride bareback and lean forward (going uphill) and backward (going downhill) while perched on the back of his hairy head, with your knees tucked up over his ears and you steer by wiggling your feet into the back if his ears! His ears, by the way are amazing - very soft and are kind of ruffled, with lots of pink spots on them.
Anyways - we rode our elephants for about 2 hours in total - to a waterfall and back - and also went swimming together. What a riot! Poojon kept getting up with me on his back then flopping over on his side, then getting us both wet by spraying us both with his trunk. He LOVES the water!
Poojon's full time caregiver, Sek, was so gentle - talking in Thai to him the entire time - their connection was obvious.
All in all it was an amazing day - and I'll never forget my first kiss from an elephant.