Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus indicus) and the Thai Elephant Conservation Center Orchestra

by DerdriuMarriner

Asian elephants amble noiselessly. They can dance gracefully and paint expressively. At Thailand’s Elephant Conservation Center, they have their own orchestra and love harmonicas.

Size as the world’s second-largest land animal after their African relatives confers high-profile life cycles and natural histories upon Asian elephants in their native southern and southeastern habitats. It likewise gives them advantages and disadvantages in interactions with predators.
• For example, an elephant’s bigness theoretically has scary consequences.

But practically, it is what makes them vulnerable because of ease in tracking.
• Susceptibility to capture nevertheless leads to dangerously dwindling populations of Asian elephants.
• It makes extinction of the last surviving members of the otherwise extinct elephant and mammoth family Elephantidae an imminent possibility.

And yet Asian elephants show uniformly emotional and intellectual maturity, what with realizing art and music at northern Thailand’s Elephant Conservation Center near Lampang.

*****
Thai Elephant Conservation Center
Km. 28-29 Lampang-Chiang Mai Highway
Hang Chat, Lampang 52190
Thailand

GPS: 18° 21' 52"N, 99° 14' 53"E

Email: info@thailandelephant.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elephantcenter
Fax: +66-5482-9330
Telephone: +66-5482-9333
Website: http://www.thailandelephant.org/en/contact.html
*****

dynamic painting: Mahout (trainer) alongside Thai elephant artist

Chiang Mai Province, northwestern Thailand
Chiang Mai Province, northwestern Thailand

 

Lampang exists as one of the Thai Kingdom’s northern provinces since 1892. Its climate gets hot and humid, with annual averages of:

  • 41.16 inches (1,045.5 millimeters) for rainfall events;
  • 113 for rain-filled days;
  • 72.8% for humidity;
  • 75.38°F (24.1°C) and 92.59°F (33.66°C) for respectively low and high temperatures;

Its geography gives locals and visitors scenic experiences at:

  • Chae Son, Doi Khun Tan, Doi Luang, and Tham Pha Thai National Parks;
  • Huay Tak Teak Biosphere Reserve;
  • Khun Tan and Phi Pan Name Mountain Ranges;
  • Wang River valley.

Its resources include:

  • Artifacts from seventh-century Haripunchai, twelfth-century Khmer, and thirteenth- to eighteenth-century Lanna rulers;
  • Ball clay, china stone, lignite, and limestone mining;
  • Ceramic, concrete, cotton, sa-paper, and wood-carving production;
  • Pineapple-growing;
  • Rice-farming.

 

Thai Elephant Conservation Center's landscape in north central Thailand: Wang River Valley

Wang River: town of Lampang, also called Nakhon Lampang, Lampang Province, north central Thailand
Wang River: town of Lampang, also called Nakhon Lampang, Lampang Province, north central Thailand

 

Thirteen districts (อำเภอ, amphoe) function as the kingdom’s equivalents of the English-language county in Lampang Province:

  • Chae Hom;
  • Hang Chat;
  • Ko Kha;
  • Mae Mo, Mae Phrik, Mae Tha, Mueang Lampang, Mueang Pan;
  • Ngao;
  • Soem Ngam;
  • Sop Prap;
  • Thoen;
  • Wang Nuea.

Each district includes subdistrict- and township-like communes (ตำบล, tambon), which in turn subdivide into hamlets and villages (หมู่บ้าน, muban). The provincial total involves 100 subdistricts and 855 villages. For example, the Hang Chat (“Arch under Royal Umbrella”) district is made up of:

  • 7 subdistricts;
  • 73 villages.

It lies immediately south and southwest of Lampang Province’s same-named district capital, with:

  • 19 subdistricts;
  • 180 villages.

It most famously shelters the Thai Elephant Conservation Center of:

  • Government ownership;
  • Royal patronage.

 

chang samkhan ("auspicious elephant"): sacred white elephants of Thailand, with whiteness referencing purity; carefully selected for housing in royal stables ~

19th century pigment on wood, Rattanakosin Kingdom (1782 – 1932): Chapter 2, Vessantara Jataka: Kalinga Brahmins Are Given the White Elephant
Walters Art Museum, Mount Vernon-Belvedere neighborhood, northern Baltimore, north central Maryland
Walters Art Museum, Mount Vernon-Belvedere neighborhood, northern Baltimore, north central Maryland

 

Government ownership attaches the Thai Elephant Conservation Center to the Veterinary Section in the Northern Timber Work Division of The Forestry Industry Organization within the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. The Forestry Industry Organization does not hold dependent department status. It instead functions as a state enterprise, as do:

  • The Botanical Garden Organization of Thailand;
  • The Thai Plywood Company Limited;
  • Wastewater Management Authority;
  • Watchan Eco-Tourism;
  • Zoological Park Organization.

It simultaneously has royal patronage, with:

  • Establishment celebrating in 1991 the thirty-sixth birthday of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn (born April 2, 1955);
  • Inauguration emphasizing the Princess’s participation on March 4, 1992;
  • Stables housing six of King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s (born December 5, 1927) ten white elephants.

 

Baby Thai elephant stays with mama: the future is bright for this young-un, with options for artistic expression in art and music.

Thai Elephant Conservation Center, Lampang Province, north central Thailand
Thai Elephant Conservation Center, Lampang Province, north central Thailand

 

The Thai Elephant Conservation Center borders the Thung Kwian Teak Forest Plantation. It claims acreage within the Ban Tung Kiew community forest of:

  • Lotuses (Nelumbo nucifera);
  • Mosses (Bryophyta division);
  • Mushrooms (Auricularia polytricha, Lentinula edodes, Volvariella volvacea);
  • Orchids (Orchidaceae family);
  • Three-needle yellow pines (Pinus kesiya);
  • Two-needle black pines (Pinus merkusii);
  • Wild lilacs (Syringa spp), roses (Rosa spp), and violets (Viola spp).

It gathers together on its grounds:

  • Elephant dung paper factory;
  • Elephant Hospital;
  • Elephant Nursery;
  • Elephant Rescue Unit;
  • Homestay, Resort, and Trekking program accommodations;
  • Mahout (“Elephant Keeper”) Training School;
  • Mobile Elephant Clinic;
  • National Elephant Institute;
  • Souvenir shop;
  • Street and traditional cuisine restaurants;
  • Temple drum and traditional sword-fighting ensembles.

It includes Pang La Sanctuary’s retirees within elephant care services.

 

Dave Soldier with JoJo, member of Thai Elephant Orchestra

ca. 2003
ca. 2003

 

Among Thai Elephant Conservation Center revenue-generating components are the Asian Elephant Art and Conservation Project painting school and the Thai Elephant Orchestra, respectively co-founded by:

  • Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid in 1998;
  • Richard Lair and David Sulzer in 2000.

Richard brings to music-making:

  • Artistry in California;
  • Conservation of elephants.

David calls upon parallel careers as:

  • Columbia University Neuroscience Professor Sulzer;
  • Composer and musician Dave Soldier.

Their collaboration folklorically evokes:

  • Kala Nag’s dances in The Jungle Book;
  • King Babar’s marching band, opera house, and symphonic orchestra.

It factually recalls:

  • Dancer “Juliet” and organ-grinder “Romeo” in 1850;
  • George Balanchine’s (January 22, 1904 – April 30, 1983) and Igor Stravinsky’s (June 17, 1882 – April 6, 1971) 50-ballerina Circus Polka in 1942.

 

onscreen: Richard Lair (left) and Dave Soldier/David Sulzer

Thai Elephant Orchestra
Thai Elephant Orchestra

 

Orchestral achievements affirm evolutionary biologist Bernhard Rensch’s (January 21, 1900 – April 4, 1990) intelligence-testing a female elephant’s twelve-note recognition and retention in 1957. They include 6 – 18 elephants multi-instrumenting:

  • Dotted rhythms;
  • Duple and triple meters;
  • Five-note scales from northern Thailand’s Buddhist temple and traditional lanna music.

They involve customized, ergonomic, huge versions of:

  • Bells;
  • Electric bass-like diddley-bows;
  • Gongs;
  • Harmonicas;
  • Marimbas;
  • Mouth organ/panpipe-like kaens;
  • Slit-drums;
  • Thunder-sheets;
  • Tuned rattle-like angalungs;
  • Xylophone-like renaats.

They juxtapose:

  • Improvisations;
  • Performances responsive to mahout commands for starting, stopping, and striking a specified number of times.

They remain accessible:

  • At the Center’s live “concerts”;
  • By the internet’s supply of YouTube videos;
  • Through Elephonic Rhapsodies (2004), Thai Elephant Orchestra (2001), and Water Music (2011) compact discs.

 

Elephant Orchestra

Uploaded to YouTube on August 7, 2009 by uzoouk ~ URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23ASZtKfEAc

Conclusion

 

Asian elephants historically are understandable through:

  • Circus performances;
  • Forest clearances;
  • Institutional, museum, private, and royal collections;
  • Military campaigns;
  • Wild observations.  

But elephant niches within resource-rich forest, grassland, and jungle habitats cannot withstand the aggressively expanding urban and rapidly shrinking wildland interfaces of:

  • Export-controlled agro-industrialism;
  • Globally-warmed climate change;
  • Poached ivory trading.

Asian elephant populations consequently claim one-fiftieth of their guesstimated six-digit totals in the nineteenth century. Their sustainability therefore demands:

  • Dignified domestication;
  • Government protection;
  • Judicious research.

Concurrent with wildlife re-introductions and conducive to environmental awareness and wildlife-loving activism will be the patronage of:

  • Alex’s and Vitaly’s artistic elephants;
  • Blake Dinkin’s Black Ivory elephant dung coffee;
  • David’s and Richard’s musical elephants;
  • The Thai Elephant Conservation Center’s elephant dung paper.

 

Thai Elephant Orchestra

Uploaded to YouTube on April 29, 2006 by Miles Gilbert ~ URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UMJ8qfw-4E

Acknowledgment

 

My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.

 

Baby Raja ~ Afterword: Baby Raja died all alone, chained to a tree, crying out for his mum.

Published on YouTube on June 20, 2013 by Elephant Family ~ URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8iLDJwXmoI

Dedication

 

In memory of Raja the Baby Elephant on the Indonesian Island of Sumatra and with respect for Raju the Elderly Elephant in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

 

50 years a Slave : Raju the Elephant cried tears of joy after being freed from suffering

Published on YouTube on July 7, 2014 by PatrynWorldLatestNew ~ URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DhrjTFSDqTU

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"baby elephant Mozart"

Thai Elephant Conservation Center, Lampang Province, north central Thailand
Thai Elephant Conservation Center, Lampang Province, north central Thailand
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

David Soldier & Richard Lair: Thai Elephant Orchestra ~ 19 songs

Thai elephant orchestra music

Thai Elephant Orchestra: Elephonic Rhapsodies

Thai Elephant Orchestra music

Thai Elephant Orchestra: Water Music ~ third and last recording

Thai Elephant Orchestra music

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Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved.
Updated: 05/08/2015, DerdriuMarriner
 
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DerdriuMarriner on 12/13/2014

MBC, Seeing the Thai Elephant Orchestra is a fun and inspiring experience. I hope that you do find time to see them on your next trip to Thailand. Another creative venture of the Thai Elephant Conservation Center is the Asian Elephant Art and Conservation Project painting school, which also offers inspirational fun.

MBC on 12/12/2014

I will have to see the Thai Elephant Orchestra next time I come to Thailand. What fun! Great article.

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