Mae Mah

The 19 March 2024 marked a significant milestone in the Elephant Conservation Center’s release project's journey, celebrating five years of success in reintroducing Mae Mah and three other elephants including her ‘adopted’ son Dor Khoun Mueang into their natural habitat within Nam Pouy National Protected Area in Laos.

The ongoing monitoring efforts have revealed a remarkable story of resilience and thriving wildlife. Over the past five years, the released elephants have flourished, exhibiting robust health and engaging in behaviors characteristic of their species, such as foraging, socializing, and exploring the vast 20,000-hectare expanse they now call home.

As part of the continuous monitoring initiative, new GPS collars have been fitted onto Mae Mah, Dor Khoun Mueang and the other two adult females that are part of the program, providing invaluable insights into their movements and habitat utilization patterns within the park. This technological advancement has empowered the mahouts with real-time data accessible via mobile phones, enabling them to track the elephants' whereabouts and make informed decisions regarding their care and management. This video shows the elephants soon after they had their new collars fittted. 

Mae Mah's journey has been marked by encounters with a wild male, a recurring phenomenon over the years. Despite these interactions, there has been no indication of pregnancy thus far. With Mae Mah nearing the age of 40 and never having given birth to a calf in her younger years, the prospect of motherhood sadly grows increasingly unlikely.  While hope remains, the reality looms that her role as a surrogate mother to Dor Khoun Mueang might be the closest she comes to experiencing motherhood herself. Yet, the team perseveres, holding onto optimism for future possibilities while acknowledging the intricate dynamics of wildlife reproduction.

Meanwhile, outside the forest, the release project team has been lobbying the government to consider elephant reintroduction as a part of their national elephant conservation strategy. The project team took some of Laos decision makers from the Wildlife, Forestry and Protected Area Management Divisions to see a successful reintroduction project in Thailand. This three-day workshop saw representatives from Laos, Myanmar and Thailand discuss previous and future elephant reintroduction efforts. We hope these sorts of discussions can help push towards formal elephant releases in Laos in the future.

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Mae Mah