Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Only If He Musth

facing the Asai We are still observing the elephants when we hear from the distance a mahout yelling 'Run! Run!' Asai, an older bull is in musth and seems to have escaped his chains. Being in musth is the male’s version of a female being in heat. He is extremely aggressive and has been comfortably but securely chained at the furthest shelter in the field. This is done to protect the other males whom he will charge at to show dominance, the females, none of which are in heat, and the volunteers who may also get charged. We see Asai charging after his mahout who is running as fast as he can from Asai. The lead mahout yells to us to get up in the tree which has built around it, a platform that is about 20 feet high. The three volunteers, myself, Sabine and Anya, climb the ladder and stay up there for 15 minutes before they are able to guide us back to the Center. It is the first time I am scared as we are reminded of the strength and size of these elephants.

While we are still up in the platform we see Asai approaching the herd of females that we were just observing. All of them seem relatively calm. Except for one. Mae Do, the female who was force bred forty times before her back and hip were broken by an aggressive male (who was in musth), is backing away from her herd, the whole time facing Asai's direction so that she never loses sight of him. She is terrified, terrified of male elephants in general. She is screaming and pees on herself. My heart goes out to her as I see her sort of frozen; she would never be able to outrun Asai. Asai takes little notice of her, of this I am glad. Chang Yim goes over as if to comfort her. 

None of the other females seem upset by Asai, and it is really only humans and other bulls that Asai is aggressive towards. Asai is the elephant with one right tusk. Tong Jan, the six year old female, is curious and Asai is tolerates her patiently.

At this point, the goal for the mahouts is to get Asai to the feeding platform. Under the platform, the mahouts can attempt to get the chain back around his ankle and do SOMEthing with him.

They are able to lure all the elephants with food. Asai, and all the females are at the feeding platform and there is a lot of excitement because of the potential danger inherent with the bull in musth. To the right of the platform right next to Asai, I can see little Fah Mai trying to get to some of the fruit. The sheer cuteness of her little body and little trunk temporarily lightens some of the tension.

After three hours, they are unable to get him back to his shelter but chain him to a shelter closer to the Center. Sri Nuan has has fallen 'in love' with Asai over the past few months and follows Asai. The mahout managers decide to keep her with Asai in order to keep him calm. Her best buddy, Malai Tong, is also brought over since the females never travel travel too far apart. All seems quiet for now.