I found it so peaceful to walk around taking pictures of everything waking up at the Conservation Center. Things would take place that normally wouldn't happen once the tourists started arriving. Everyone was calm and relaxed.
Look how beautiful the elephant bathing pool looks in the morning sunlight, with a pinkish glow. A flower across from where we ate our meals looking absolutely gorgeous. And an elephant chair propped up against an old food storage shed.
On our walks to the forest, we would pass the Conservation Center community housing: friendly dogs, chickens, and roosters running around all over the place.
Once we got to the barn, we were given big pieces of sugar cane and off to the forest we went. Time to find the elephants!
It was so funny to me to pass random elephants hanging out on the side of the road. Here is one of the younger elephants being scrubbed down by his mahout.
When the elephants are eating and when they are brought to the forest, their front feet are shackled in chains. This does not inhibit them from moving, nor does it cause them any pain (they are quite loose). What it keeps them from doing is running away or getting into fights with each other.
Whenever we would find Wanalee and she would see us, she would start galloping in place and then come running over to us. You will never be so happy as when you see an elephant come running over to you in joy, ears flapping like crazy.
Then Tiem would take off her shackles and we would have her lay down so that we could clean her off. It was surprising to me just how filthy she would get during the night. She must have been rolling around all over the ground because sometimes she would have dirt caked all over her back. So we would take a clump of leaves and gently brush her off. I think she liked it because she would make these little pleasant sounds and get sort of a glazed look in her eyes, not unlike a dog when you scratch them just above the tail.
Then she would stand up and begin to gather her own leash. She would pull it with her trunk and lay it out in perfect 5 foot lengths in front of her that we would then drape over her neck so that we could take everything back down the hill with us. While the chains felt quite heavy to me, they were not for her. It was as if she were wearing a necklace, nothing more. Then we would start back down the hill and back to the feeding area and show grounds.
Once we got back down the hill, we were sort of left to "roam free". We would let the elephants drink for about thirty minutes and eat for about an hour, all while sitting on their backs. I love the picture below: looks like we are all standing around the water cooler gossiping.
You can get a sense of Wanalee's hilarious personality below, as she is standing in the water trough and not outside of it.
Just look at these gorgeous colors! Each large piece of paper was only 25 baht (or 85 cents USD). So I ended up buying about 10 giant pieces to use in the upcoming Buoyant Echo show at SKyPAC. So beautiful: I can't wait to use them!! I'm going to photograph how I use the paper in the show and send it back to the Conservation Center so that they can see it in action . . . Excited!