Twinkle toes with a trunk
Thursday 6 August 2009
A curious elephant that tiptoed into a Thai tree nursery for a nose around left conservationists and villagers astounded – because the gentle giant caused absolutely no damage.
Contrary to the frequent tales of devastation wrought by marauding elephants, this inquisitive ellie took a careful route into the nursery to peer at some tree saplings, before doing a graceful three-point-turn and ambling back to the forest.
The tiny nursery, built entirely from bamboo, is run by villagers working on a project to restore degraded areas of forest.
Located just on the perimeter of a protected forest, an overnight glitch in an electric fence gave the male elephant the opportunity to go for a wander into uncharted territory.
Belinda Stewart-Cox, who runs the Elephant Conservation Network - a project supported by ZSL - explained: 'This elephant appears to have been deliberately careful not to damage anything. He lifted the back fencepost and laid it down, before making his way down an aisle of tree saplings only 3ft wide. I was absolutely astonished.'
She added: 'It was also very lucky, because it was a stark warning to the villagers that the tree nursery must be better protected.
'The elephant could have destroyed it so easily, leaving the project in tatters - we would need $50,000 to start it up again.'
These forest elephants are very hard to count, but fewer than 50,000 are thought to survive in total.
In Thailand their status is particularly dire. Barely 1,500 survive in the wild, with twice that number in captivity, but neither number is assured.