AES provided funding for a man named Sounthone Phitsamone (Kan), from the Elephant Conservation Center in Laos, PDR to attend the 2013 FOKMAS mahout workshop. AES has supported the Center on various projects over the last couple of years. We felt it would be helpful for Kan to attend this workshop to gain valuable knowledge from the mahouts in Indonesia. In turn, he would share this information with the mahouts in Laos. Watch for the January newsletter where we will highlight Kan’s trip to Indonesia.
Kan works at the ECC elephant hospital as an assistant to the veterinarians. Most of the veterinarians speak English and not Laotian (native language of Laos), so Kan also serves as a translator for the veterinarians, mahouts, and owners. Kan impressed Linda with his enthusiasm and passion for the elephants at the ECC and his English language skills. When Linda returned to the U.S., we began discussing ways to provide additional support to elephants in Laos, and the idea of helping Kan improve his scientific, husbandry, and welfare knowledge by attending the mahout workshop was an obvious choice.
Because elephant healthcare and welfare knowledge in Laos is very limited, the knowledge and networking connections Kan gained at the mahout workshop will significantly benefit the 10 resident ECC elephants and approximately 300 other elephants that are treated by mobile clinics annually. Among the important elephant care issues discussed and demonstrated at the mahout workshop, Kan learned how critical it is for an elephant to be comfortable with being touched by the mahouts and veterinarians. When medical treatment is needed, an elephant that is used to being touched by people will be calmer and more accepting of the medical care. Kan was impressed with how calm, Theo, the male elephant from the Tangkahan ECC was while he had his feet worked on during the footwork demonstration, even though there was a crowd of people around him. Kan learned how to properly take field measurements to estimate weights which will be very useful in determining correct medicine dosages for treating elephants in remote elephant camps where it is not feasible to use the portable scale donated by AES.
Kan also learned a wealth of useful information for caring for calves. There are currently two calves where Kan works at the ECC in Laos, one of which is an orphan. Kan spoke at length with the mahouts during the breaks and meals to learn about the mahouts’ experiences with orphans and discussed his own experiences. They talked about elephant behavior, nutrition, feeding schedules, etc. These discussions will most certainly improve care for orphan elephant calves in both Indonesia and Laos.
Even after the workshop was done for the day, Kan was still actively engaged. Every evening he had a list of additional questions for Dr. Stremme about reproduction, nutrition, training, and more. Kan learned an incredible amount of practical information from Dr. Stremme. Kan repeatedly said he couldn’t wait to get back to the ECC in Laos to share this information with veterinarians and mahouts to improve the health and welfare of the elephants in Laos.
It was a pleasure to support Kan. We will continue to communicate with Kan and other participants of the mahout workshop to gain new insights into how AES can more effectively improve Asian elephant health, welfare and humane treatment by facilitating educational opportunities for the people who directly care for elephants in range countries.