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Suki, The Half-Ton Two-Year Old

May 12, 2016

Doug Bahr, whom The Elephant Story sponsored to be a veterinarian intern at the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF), sent us a report on a day in the life of a half-ton baby elephant. Boon Jan, the mother of Suki, came to the GTAEF a few years back and within the first year at the foundation, she gave birth to baby Suki. The foundation has a rigid policy about breeding captive Asian elephants as there is no work for them as well as a reducing natural habitat.  There were a few red faces as no one knew Boon Jan was with child but those faces soon turned into huge smiles.  With a gestation period of some two years, it is unclear who the father is but that is not relevant since male elephants take no part in child rearing. Fortunately, Citi sponsored an elephant nursery shown below. Many thanks to Darren Buckley for that.

At fifty-seven, Boon Jan is an excellent mother and has had several calves before coming to the GTAEF.  Baby elephants are totally dependent on their mothers for the first three years of their life before weaning.  After that, they usually stay at their mother's side for another two years and within the herd for the rest of their lives.  If the offspring are males, they are kicked out of the herd at the time of sexual maturity, roughly twelve to thirteen years.  Talk about a matriarchal society!
Boon Jan and Suki spend a significant part of their days in the baby nursery where Suki can nurse as 70% of her diet is milk and 30% sugar cane, pineapple, banana, bamboo leaves and elephant grass.  After breakfast, mother and baby will leave the compound for a hike up the mountains with their mahouts.
Apart from the exercise, now is the time Suki learns what it is like to become an adult by foraging and learning by example.  On these hikes, Suki imitates what Boon Jan does even though she may not understand why.  Boon Jan has a particular area where she loves to dig and throw dirt on herself, which acts as a sunscreen and a natural barrier to insects.  Suki can hardly lift her trunk over her head but that does not keep her from trying.
Upon their return to base camp, Boon Jan and Suki have a cool drink and a bath. Doug is giving Boon Jan a scrub.
Compared to her mother, Suki appears to be small and harmless.  However, at 1,000 pounds one has be very wary.  As you will see in the video below, Suki's trunk might be quite limber but it can put an adult on the ground very quickly with a possible concussion.  Wonderful creatures--but one just has to be a bit careful.  Many thanks to Doug for this fascinating report.
Lots of fun colors bring life to these flip-flops from The Elephant Story.  

Carved into the base is an outline of our adopted elephant Rueang Jay (Story from the Heart) and at the top of the left is "" and on the right is "Save the Vanishing Footprint".

Made from recycled materials in Thailand, each color selection is limited by the amount of the recycled materials the manufacturer was able to obtain.

And just like all of our products, the profits go to Elephant conservation!

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