Spotlight: Grandma Auntie Mae Thai
Often overlooked, 60-something year old Mae Thai – a grandma auntie on the Faa Mai side of our largest family group — has been at Elephant Nature Park since December 2002. She became one of Tong Jaan’s aunties in late 2005, not long after Tong Jaan and Mae Bua Tong’s arrival. She has remained a loyal auntie to Tong Jaan ever since and has helped look after some of the new arrivals as well. Mae Thai’s protective nature sometimes gets the best of her. Though most of her fellow herd members are quite social and friendly with other elephants when they wander over to visit, Mae Thai will often try to chase them away!
Even within the family unit things are not always harmonious. Mae Thai and Mae Sri Nuan are sometimes at odds with one another. Dok Ngern’s son Chang Yim (whom Sri Nuan is very protective of) often starts head-butting matches with old Mae Thai. Of course, she thinks that she should be able to give him her all and try to put him in his place as an elder female in the herd should. And of course as a cocky four-year-old (who acts like he is going on 20!) Chang Yim also thinks this is a great game and has no intentions of backing down to the old grandma. As a result of this stubborn stand off, massive Mae Sri Nuan will often meander over menacingly, ready for an intervention of which Mae Thai will bear the brunt. “How dare she push my boy,” Sri Nuan seems to be thinking … to which Mae Thai mentally replies: “He started it!”
And so it goes …
Between the family drama and the poor social skills, Mae Thai is often seen on the fringes of her group and kept out of some of their more social activities such as close-up time with the guests or mingling with Navann’s family. There are times when it seems that Mae Thai does not mind being on her own and other moments when it is evident she would like to be in the midst of her herd.
Over the past few years, Mae Thai has sought companionship with someone she never would have considered in the past – none other than ‘Sir’ Hope!
This is a hilarious development if you know their past. When Hope was around Faa Mai’s age, Mae Thai had no patience for him and his daily antics at the mud pit, often playing too rough with ‘her’ beloved little Tong Jaan. She used to consider him no less than an annoying little brat!
Mae Thai has always been thought of as a spinster — no longer able to get pregnant and no interest in males. BUT — her interest was rekindled a few years back when Hope ‘came of age’ and became quite popular with the other gals in Thai’s family.
Hope was busy planting his seed where he could, feeling quite grown up and satisfied with himself. With no adult bulls around to dominate Hope, he began to feel that he could dominate some of the older females who used to push him around when he was younger. Hope was sure that Mae Thai would be just as willing to accept his reproductive advances as Sri Nuan, Mae Bua Tong and Dok Ngern were. Suprisingly, he turned out to be right!
At first, Mae Thai was downright afraid and offended by Hope’s persistence. Knowing running away would only provoke a chase, she eventually gave in and allowed him to have his way. Much to her astonishment, Thai found that she actually enjoyed this long forgotten interaction and as a result she became a bit of a ‘cougar’. She still hangs out with Hope quite regularly.
Many older female elephants can be quite stubborn and set in their ways. Mae Thai is a prime example of this! After a full life of submitting to humans in the working world followed by 10 years of retirement with no riding or bull hooks, Mae Thai does not like to listen. She really only respects and responds to a mahout who is experienced and knows what he is doing. If a mahout does not fit this description there will be a battle of wills, one of which Mae Thai will most likely be the winner. Because she is part of a big family group and the mahouts work as a collective of sorts, Thai is quite often assigned a young and inexperienced mahout. It is known that one of the more experienced mahouts will need to come to his aid multiple times a day. Mae Thai is highly annoyed by the bumbling attempts of a boy young enough to be her grandson, thinking he can tell her what to do!! She postures threateningly, snorting her exasperation, rooting her feet firmly to the ground she stands on, refusing to budge. Knowing there are limitations to the force that can be used to get an elephant to cooperate at ENP, a few of Mae Thai’s teenage mahouts have nearly been brought to tears of frustration, with no sympathy from weathered old Thai. She is a gal of her own mind and we love her the way she is.
The only elephant in the herd left without a sponsor
Cantankerous Mae Thai … what a character!! Somehow, Mae Thai has been overlooked and is the only elephant in the ENP who has not yet been fostered! Mae Thai feels left out. PLEASE foster Mae Thai for your favorite grandma or feisty friend or family member, TODAY.
With the Christmas holiday looming ahead, fostering an elephant is a gift that gives and gives!! When you give a gift of a fostering you are not cluttering up one’s home with stuff, or polluting the environment with excess packaging. Your funds help care for all of the animals here at ENP and the recipient gets updates with pictures of their foster elephant multiple times a year. The perfect gift!!!