Olivia came to the Park as a
volunteer in April 2005. She fell in love with the work Lek is
doing and wanted to help in some way. For her approaching 21st
birthday her parents wanted to buy her a car, but she asked them
if the money could be used to rescue elephants instead, and they
Tong Jan’s mother was sent back to work shortly after she was
born, and Tong Jan had no choice but to follow along behind her.
She became weak and frail from lack of sleep. Volunteers on
their way to Elephant Haven would always see her mother,
foraging for extra food after a hard days trekking, with Tong
Jan struggling along behind her. They felt sorry for this duo
and told Lek about them. She contacted their owner to see if
they could be bought, and found that a deal could be made.
Tong Jan and her mother arrived at Elephant Nature Park after
a three hour walk, accompanied by Olivia, other volunteers and
Elephant Nature Park staff. Upon arrival there was rumbles and
trumpets of excitement from the herd females. Everyone tried to
win Tong Jan over, to be chosen as ‘auntie’. After about 3 hours
it seemed that Mae Elu and Thai had won the positions. Somboon
took a month before deciding that she wanted to help raise Tong
Jan as well, and took over Mae Elu’s position for a while.
The young Tong Jan has grown to be one of the Park’s greatest
success stories. Her mahout patiently applies Lek’s training
methods using positive reinforcement each day. Tong Jan is
learning all the basic skills of a domestic working elephant
(though she will never work a day in her life) through a reward
system using bananas. With her mahout’s whole-hearted
participation in her training, she is learning fast. Tong Jan is
already living proof that elephants can indeed be trained
without the need for physical dominance or abuse.