Happy mahouts mean happy elephants. The Mahouts at the Mondulkiri Project have long and caring relationships with our elephants. The mahouts can communicate with the elephants to ask them to go in the water to wash.
Here are some questions asked to a mahout about his work life:
What does an elephant bring to the family?
It’s a job that isn’t farming and doesn’t harm the forest like farming does. The forest and the elephants support each other.
What does an elephant cost the family?
If the owner can be the mahout, and if the elephant is free to forage in the forest for the food it needs, then it costs nothing. Otherwise, owners have to hire a mahout and send both to a camp. The salary needs to be enough for the mahout to live on otherwise he will leave.
Describe a typical day for a mahout.
We look out for the elephant’s health, and we make sure they don’t get too close to the farms. We bring elephants to better areas to forage, and we observe their behavior. If their ears and tails are wagging, then that’s a good sign.
How does one become a mahout?
To be a mahout, you have to really love elephants, because you’re stuck with them the whole time! You have to go out, rain or shine, every day, and sometimes even at night to watch over them.
What is the best thing about being a mahout?
I’d say it’s the relationship I form with the elephant. It’s like a lifelong friend or a good companion. Sometimes I even talk to my elephant. I tell her all sorts of things!
What’s the hardest part of the job?
It’s hard because we can’t spend much time with our families. Sometimes, though, mahouts quit the profession once they have families, since it’s so hard to do both.
Mahouts have so many skills! What can tourists learn from you?
We know how to track an elephant and identify each one by its footprints and dung. We know why they eat what they eat. For example, sometimes they eat special bark, roots, or even soil to help with stomach problems and get worms out of their system.
As far as forest survival skills, we know how to catch fish, frogs, mice, and birds to roast. We just bring some rice and chili, and the rest for ourselves. With forest cooking, we aren’t into details. Just catch, cook, mix with chili, and eat!