My week with KSES

A day in the life of a research intern
May 30, 2024
A day in the life of a research intern
May 30, 2024

Alice 1 week intern –

My time at the KSES project was an adventure that I will never forget. On top of observing and documenting the behaviour of Asian elephants, it was an immersive cultural experience living with my homestay in the Karen Village and participating in village activities. Growing up in the city, I felt truly humbled by Karen’s basic living conditions, warmed by the friendliness of the Ban Naklang villagers, and amazed by the mahoots’ ability to traverse mountains in flip flops.

I quickly learned that this is much more than a project about elephants – it is a project about the community. Initiatives such as defleeing the village dogs, English lessons, trash pickup runs and insect biohikes are part of the many thoughtful initiatives KSES offer to the local Karen community. In return, the locals opened up their homes to us and showed us their way of living. I had the chance to bond with local tour guide Kanda during our morning hikes – she displayed such maturity for her age, and I was thoroughly impressed by her dedication to learn new languages (she speaks English, Mandarin, Thai and Karen!) and ambition to explore this world. I find it heartwarming that KSES is able to provide a place for a brilliant young mind like Kanda to prosper and grow.

I also learned a lot about elephants throughout my one-week stay. I learned that Asian elephants are studied much less than their African counterparts, and KSES is one of the very few organizations dedicated to understanding semi-wild Asian elephant behaviour. I learned that elephants in the project were seen to forage over a hundred types of plants in a semi-wild environment, showing a preference in food variety over the monotonous diet offered in some tourist camps. I learned that each elephant has its own personality, and there are little things they do that make them so unique: Sri Prai, the 14 year old female elephant, is sociable and talkative, often spending time around other elephants and squeaking along. Too Mae, KSES’s oldest elephant, has a knack for whipping her food against trees to shake off bugs and dirt. Junior, the baby elephant and son of Sri Prai, loves to play – sometimes pulling his mahoot’s leg for fun, or climbing on top of other elephants who are trying to nap.

So much was jam packed into the short week I’ve stayed with KSES, and I can only wish to spend more time with the elephants and my new friends. Thank you for this unforgettable trip, da blu!!

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