So on Wednesday, the real work was supposed to start. Yo told us we’d spend the morning cutting grasses that the elephants were particularly fond of, and then that afternoon we’d get to feed them. We were to wear long pants and long sleeves, because the grasses were sharp. When we woke up in the morning, a new cat had joined the calico who was already a constant presence.
Prince, as Anna, our writer, named him, was a bit more insistent than the calico. (Who I referred to as Callie, rather unimaginatively, in my head.) Rachel, an Aussie, is anaphylactic-ally allergic to cats, so when one of them approached her, we’d have to dive to her rescue. You know how cats can always sense the non-cat person in the crowd, so they seemed to single her out. After a delicious pancake breakfast, we all piled into the back of the truck, to get where the grasses grow. The trips in the bed of the truck had the feel of a joy-ride, exhilarating but nerve-wracking, especially when we’d come upon another vehicle in the narrow, winding, single road, but the views were always incredible.
I, and I think most of my group, had been imagining a field, where the grasses were grown for the elephant’s food. This was definitely not the case. After a couple of false stops, we were let out on the side of the road and issued machetes. We were given instructions on how to cut, and warned if we got cut to let Yo or Joe know, so they could clean it with alcohol. Apparently because of the high protein content in the grass, the cuts are more prone to infection.
There were more people than machetes, so we took turns cutting the grasses, and bringing them back to the trucks.
The goal was 200 kg per elephant, for a total of 800 kg, which is 1,700+ lbs. We were meant to fill one truck bed entirely, to overflowing, and then put another 200 kg in the bed of the truck we rode in. I thought it was going to take forever. Also, the elephants are rather picky, and only like the softer tops, so they will only eat the first five leaves of the grasses. After cutting there for a while on the side of the road, we piled back in and went to a second site to finish up.
It ended up taking much less time than we were all expecting, many hands making light work and all that, but also I think Yo let us off easy. When we got back to the camp, we had some lunch, and then time to hang out and relax.
A little while later though, the elephants showed up, hungry for their meal. I may have mentioned this already but it’s amazing how quiet they are, for such giant animals. We all jumped up and scrambled to grab our stuff as they came flying into camp.
We spread the grasses out along the ground, and watched as they oh so delicately picked and chose their favorite parts.
Some of the elephants preferred the leaves, while others the flowers at the top. None of the elephants seemed to like the stems, or the lower leaves.
The elephants weren’t just hungry, they were thirsty too, so someone turned on the hose for them to get a drink.
After they’d eaten everything, and I mean everything, the mahouts took them back into the hills (so they could keep eating) and we went back to the village to work with the kids before dinner, and another night’s cold sleep.
If you’d like to visit, or donate, or get involved in any way with this incredible organization, this is the link to the Elephant Nature Park