October 17 Jonna and I arrived at the elephant camp in the National Park at 6.30 am. This morning’s training is our last in Assam, as we head to the…
October 13 Today is our day of travel from one corner of India to the other in 14 hours. We left our hotel at 4.30 am and then flew from…
There were 23 mahouts who arrived for the workshop. Our first task was to find out how much of what they had learned last time had been remembered and utilised. It was encouraging to hear senior mahouts who had been training the traditional way for such a long time telling of their success with using combined reinforcement (mix of positive and negative reinforcement.
Happy World Elephant Day! The Human Elephant Learning Programs today, has a greater ability to create change than ever before.
Ben, Ramith (our translator) and myself took an overnight train to the Guruvayoor elephant residence where possibly the world’s largest collection of tuskers (male elephants) are housed. Here live 60 elephants, 56 of which are mature tuskers. The Chief Veterinary officer and a senior mahout gave us a tour of these captive elephants all of whom are used for ceremonial purposes, namely temple festivals.
Our last training day has finally arrived. We only had a couple of hours to devote to this final session as the closing ceremony was to take place before noon.
Neither elephant had ever learned to pick and give objects so I was prepared to start at the beginning and reward simply just touching the stick that they were supposed to pick up. Sundari was the first candidate and her motivation for food rewards is so high that she took only three repetitions to pick up objects and when with a little directional help from us on the ground, she was soon transferring a stick that she had been asked to pick up to a mahout on board!
Because things had been going so well and because of the possibility of our routines becoming stale, I decided that in the afternoon we should take both elephants on a ridden safari to the grazing grounds where they could freely graze for an hour or two. So we headed out, the two elephants with their mahouts aboard and the 15 or so mahouts and trainers on foot..
Today began again with Ben and myself feeling very enthusiastic about what lay ahead of us today after yesterday’s success. That went beyond all expectations.
We arrived at the Elephant Rehabilitation Centre in the Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary, Kottoor in the morning to get a fuller picture of Unni during his early morning bathing time. Bathing elephants can take up to 2 hours as their entire bodies are scrubbed while they lay on their sides blowing bubbles and squirting water around.