The mahout in Gia Lao Province who protects the sole surviving elephant
VietNamNet Bridge - In Gia Lai province  Ksor Cham, a 76 year old mahout, in Plei Pa Kdanh village, Chu Mo commune of Ia Pa district takes care of one surviving elephant in his area. 


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Yatao is the only alive elephant in Gia Lai 



Gia Lai Plateau once took pride in its domestication of many wild elephants. However, the number of elephants has been decreasing. Ya Tao is now the only elephant alive in Gia Lai.

In the past there were three male elephants at his house – Thoong Kham, Thoong Xa and Dak Xom. However, more and more elephants died in the area because of disease, lack of food and war. Elephant keepers also shifted to till rice fields. 

Ya Tao was bought in 1990 at the price equal to five taels of gold. The animal is nearly 60 years old and is still working daily with the owner. 

In high cassava and coffee harvesting season, Ya Tao is hired to carry products to areas where vehicles cannot reach. When the harvesting season ends, Ya Tao is chained and placed in the deep forest, where food is plentiful. 

As Ksor Cham’s health conditions are getting worse, he cannot go with Ya Tao to the forest to find food for his favorite elephant. The work of elephant keeping has been assigned to his son in law – Ksor Aloh.

In high cassava and coffee harvesting season, Ya Tao is hired to carry products to areas where vehicles cannot reach. When the harvesting season ends, Ya Tao is chained and placed in the deep forest, where food is plentiful. 

Ksor Aloh brings rice and salt to the forest, traveling with Ya Tao to look for food and herbs to treat diseases. He lives in the forest and returns home once a month. 

Meanwhile, Ksor Cham says he goes to the forest to visit the elephant when he misses it.

“One day, Ya Tao was hit by more than 20 lead pellets on the right cheek, from which blood poured off. I pounded the medicinal herbs and applied on its cheek. The wound completely healed after one week. Later, Ya Tao found herbs in the forest to cure itself,” he said.

Ksor Cham said many people, including foreigners, want to buy his elephant. Some years ago, a travel firm asked him to sell Ya Tao for VND1.5 billion. However, he refused because it is now a member of his family.


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Mai Thanh

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