Monday, February 1, 2010
ALMOST EVERYTHING YOU NEVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT THE ASIAN ELEPHANT
Today we went to the Chiang Dao Elephant Camp, something I would have avoided if left to my planning. Best day of the tour so far.
Everyone knows that they are smaller than the African elephant (max of 11,000 pounds, although a large male rarely exceeds 8,000 pounds, compared to the 12,000 lb weight for the African) and have smaller ears. But did you know that the Asian elephant has 18 toenails and 19 pairs of ribs as opposed to 16 toenails and 21 pairs of ribs for the African? They say that Asian elephants are trainable, but not so for the African. This is a myth. Well, I'll return to this larger variety later on my safari this coming fall.
Pregnancy can last as long as 22 months and life expectancy is 60 years in the wild and 80 years in captivity. Most males have tusks, but not females. They sleep lying down like humans and average 4 hours/night. They eat (fiber like grass, bananas, sugar cane, etc.) 10% their body weight and crap 25% of that, so a four ton behemoth daily consumes 800 pounds and produces 200 pounds of spherical turds about the size of softballs. These natural hazards are generally deftly sidestepped by elephants. Now, aren't you glad you now know so much about the Asian elephant? Any one of these facts could suddenly confront you on Do You Want to Be a Millionaire.
I was fascinated by their ability to paint pictures. Of course, they are trained to do exactly the same thing in sequence, with their mahout (trainer who serves a lifetime with each elephant) picking out the brush and color. But the precision and relative logic was a surprise.
We went on a one hour trek as shown below. This was a wonderful experience. Here are Carole and Shep Goldstein (Boston, MA) on the right.
I purchased an elephant riding hat, except that I was told there is no such thing. Anyway, the color code was ideal for our tour bus.
Dinner was a Thai buffet with Curtis Lee (Honolulu) and Janice and Howard Kaplan of West Palm Beach, Florida. They are on their 28th Tauck tour. Curtis has only been on 14.
Thai dances entertained the group.
The Dow Jones Industrials had a nice day, up 118 to 10,186, and world markets also all increased. Gold jumped $23/toz to $1105 and oil is just under $75/barrel.