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Even Elephants Fall in Love

'Love child' baby elephant

ELEPHANTS IN THAILAND have always been a symbol of both power and peace. They have always performed the most exacting physical tasks. And they have always been well loved. In fact the Thai have special words regarding their tusked or tuskless elephants: a male with tusks is called a 'chaang plai'; a male without tusks (who, incidentally, is usually stronger than his tusked counterpart) is called a 'chaang seeh daw' and a female is called a 'chang paang.'

The birth of a baby elephant is quite a remarkable event at the best of times, but when the father is 89 years of age and the mother nothing more than a girlish 8 year old, the occasion becomes even more special. The elephant mirrors the life patterns of a human more closely than any other living thing. Its life span is approximately 80 years and its growth rate similar to that of humans. An eight year old elephant is naughty, mischievous and often uncontrollable but is certainly not promiscuous, not reaching puberty until approximately 12 years of age, while an 89 year old male has lost his teeth, is frail and weak and has lost his sexual ability although it seems, like humans, he still retains the desires. Plai Aek has indeed lost his teeth and can no longer chew his natural food of grass and shrubs nor even enjoy a nibble at his favorite tidbit of sugar cane, instead the zoo staff have to feed him milled, unpolished rice mixed with calcium, cod liver oil, coconut and banana, but regarding his sexual ability, READ ON.

The amazing love story of Plai Aek began way back in 1991. Plai Aek lived happily with his wife, Noy, in Chiangmai Zoo but unfortunately, despite a long relationship and happy marriage, they had remained childless. In the summer of 1991, a 5 month old orphan elephant was brought to the zoo and adopted by the loving couple. Sadly, in 1996, Noy passed away at the grand old age of 87, leaving Plai Aek deeply saddened. However, he still had Paang Mai, his adopted daughter to keep him company.

On November 19, 1998, Paang Mai gave birth to Chai Yo and as the gestation period for elephants is between 21 and 23 months it does not take a genius to work out that Paang Mai was just a 6 year old girl when she became pregnant. This truly remarkable event appears to have established a number of records. At 89, Plai Aek is thought to be the oldest elephant father in the world while Paang Mai is considered the youngest mother in the elephant kingdom. A third record is also claimed in that Chai Yo is the first baby elephant to be born in a Thai zoo.

If you would like to see this amazing old man, his lovely young wife and their remarkable baby, pay a visit to Chiangmai Zoo and enjoy a day out with nature in wonderful, natural surroundings. The location of the Chiangmai Zoo is on Huay Kaew Road as indicated on the maps within this issue.

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