By Thiha Lulin
With the programme backed by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), we from Myanmar together with Laura, a woman travel blogger and Mathias, a man lifestyle blogger from Denmark, went on a tour of Myang Hay Wun Elephant Camp to find out nature of elephants and actual life of mahouts from the close range. Having put up at the camp for one night, we came to know that it is a worth-visiting site for nature lovers and those who are fond of visiting. Let me share the information about natures of elephants and their mahouts to nature lovers and those being fond of visiting. It is located in Taikkyi Township, Yangon Region.
Fantastical capture of untamed elephant
The location of Myaing Hay Wun Elephant Camp is a short distance away from Bago mountain ranges and this point is uncommon. Wild elephants used to take the wrong way to nearby villages and plantations due to various reasons. The camp is to prevent against the danger of wild elephants in practical terms. As chance would have it, herds of wild elephants can be explored by riding elephants in the camp. Howdahs considered to hurt elephants are not used in taking a ride of the elephant. Visitors can ride on the bare back of the elephant. This elephant ride can cool me down to some degree. It is unsuitable for the visitors to accompany on the trip to drive out wild elephants, but don’t miss a chance of scouring for a herd of elephants like a family. Sound mustn’t pass through. We encountered a herd of elephants running away in the forest as we screamed out when a swarm of red ants fell. But it is known to us that if a male wild elephant remains isolated, we should keep away from it.
The elephant Myanmar people love
Myanmar people love elephants among the animals. Our country is a natural habitat for the animals including elephants that are in danger of becoming extinct. We almost forget to conserve wildlife and we take no notice of what to do. Pangolin is now almost extinct. Elephant is also the same matter. The survey forecasts that there are nearly 5,000 elephants, half of them are in the elephant conservation camps. It is estimated there is a number of wild elephants ranging from 1,400 to 2,000.
Be careful of the attack of the hunters first. The extension of plantations and housing has taken the place of the habitats of the elephants. The natural habits of the elephants are gradually narrowing nowadays. In this way, men and elephants become unfriendly with each other. As a result men murder elephants or vice versa. We come to know much more about the elephants from visiting elephant camps. The elephants should be well kept in terms of nature rather than putting them to work. Tame elephants can be used in driving out wild elephants arriving in the villages and the plantations. In this way we can protect our villages and plantations from being destroyed by wild elephants.
The reasons for killing elephants
If people are asked why the elephant is killed, they will easily answer to want ivory. Nowadays this answer isn’t enough.
Hunters are murdering elephants as they want elephant skin regardless of ivory. Elephant hunters are skillful.
It was learnt that they managed to kill the elephants without difficulty as they came from a community close to elephants. Elephant skin has to be cut into square forms in a speedy manner.
The square forms from cutting elephant skin have to be easily carried in polyethylene bags. Therefore, elephant camps, environmentalists and forest police have to join hands in preventing the elephants from being killed.
We also came to know that elephant keepers are not allowed carrying weapons so they have difficulty when they see the armed hunters.
Night stay at Myaing Hay Wun Elephant Camp
Lack of facilities at the camp is some kind of attraction. It is very close to the forest. We had to stay at the camp by nature. We were hosted in great variety just like a lifestyle of village. The visitors can learn how to keep tame elephants by nature. It is very nice to listen to the life of mahouts. We gained experience of mahouts how to care elephants in one sitting during the night stay. The camp provides the mahouts service quarters their families to live. There is also a mess hall where breakfast, lunch and dinner are available. The hall is not so large. About 12 people can stay there. There are more than 30 elephants including baby ones in the camp. Some elephants are almost 60 years old.
Fifty-six-year-old elephant named Shwe Toe Win
The elephants including Shwe Toe Win have to be taken to water to bath them in the mornings. There is a creek in the gully of the camp to bath the elephants. We bathed Shwe Toe Win in the creek in the morning on the day when we returned. While we were rubbing Shwe Toe Win with soap, we saw a kind of tree called Sue Yit. We cut it with a knife to get its bark. When it is crashed, it changes to foam. The elephants can be cleaned with this foam. Ivory can be cleaned by rubbing them with sand.
Other activities near elephant camp
Lahamangae lagoon is located near the elephant camp where the visitors can enjoy a day’s fishing. There are also Pyinkadoe and sugarcane plantations. The visitors can enjoy hiking and trekking to some degree. We visited the mango plantation as well. The wild elephants used to come when the mangoes become ripe. U Pyaung Gyi, the owner of the mango plantation, told us that he had to ask for help from the elephant camp when the wild elephants came to the mango plantation. The visitors can visit nearby villages by motorcycles.
It is hot in the summertime. It is difficult to go from one place to another in the rainy season because the roads are earthen. The cold season is the best to go. The weather is fairly cold so it will not be easy to have a bath.
Where is it and how to go?
Myaing Hay Wun Elephant Camp is in Taikkyi Township, Yangon Region, which is reachable by car. Get off in Pa-Lon village of Taikkyi and then take motorcycles. It is a thirty minutes’ motorcycle drive to the camp. Myaing Hay Wun Elephant Camp can be reached by motorcycles in half an hour. The car drive is also the same matter. Off-road vehicles like four-wheel drive are better than small ones as the road is rough. If the car body is low, its flooring may touch the road. If you ride a motorcycle to Myaing Hay Wun, it costs about K5,000.
One night stay at Myaing Hay Wun Elephant Camp costs K10,000 per person. Breakfast is worth about K10,000 per person. Charge for elephant ride is K5,000 per person.
Myaing Hay Wun Elephant Camp is quite unlike any other one that I have ever visited. The camp is in a situation of a difficult access. The animal keepers are taking care of the elephants by nature. The elephants are usually put out to pasture. Regular patrol is made to prevent against the danger of untamed elephants coming to the area of the camp. Sometimes, the visitors ride the elephants here and there in the camp. The mahouts put the elephants out to the pasture in the mornings and return them to their usual place in the evenings. The environmental conservation organizations like the daily activities taking place in the camp. We were much satisfied with a rare chance of observing lifestyles of the mahouts and their families with the close range. I soon am going to post Myaing Hay Wun Elephant Camp on a blog to capture the attention of nature loving travellers. Wishing all the people could travel with best of health and happiness free from all obstacles. Translated by Htut Htut (Twantay)