Love for elephants led Ain to become a mahout

23 Dec 2023 08:30pm
Ain and Pian the elephant
Ain and Pian the elephant

TEMERLOH - Norain Saudi rubs Pian's face, occasionally giving the 49-year-old female elephant a banana to snack on.

A while later Norain, 34, gently nudges the elephant from Myanmar out of the enclosure leading her to the bathing spot, where she hoses the 4.760-tonne pachyderm with water.

"This is one of my tasks as a mahout. At first, it was difficult to control the elephants because maybe they were used to the louder and rougher voices of men.

"I felt very awkward steering an elephant for the first time. But over time I got used to it and got better at balancing myself to the rhythm of the elephant's gait," she told Bernama here recently.

Norain, who is a Wildlife Assistant at the Kuala Gandah National Elephant Conservation Centre (PKGK) in Lanchang here, was reminiscing about her early days as a mahout a few years ago.

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Born in Melaka but raised in Temerloh, Ain, who is one of the first three women mahouts at the conservation centre, said she became interested in elephants when young as a result of tagging along with her father, Saudi Sidek, 63 when he used to work in PKGK.

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She started volunteering at the centre when she was 19 years old before going full-time in 2011.

"But the daily tasks at the centre are not the same as being a mahout. There is a lot to learn because although they have been tamed, the elephants can get playful with their mahouts.

"Being slapped on the face by elephant ears is normal. Even though their ears look soft, the impact can be bruising," she said while laughing.

Norain also learned basic commands such as 'sit', 'walk', 'lie down', and 'get up' in Thai, Myanmar, and Indian languages ​​because some of the elephants in the centre originate from these countries.

The conservation centre, which was established in 1989, has 23 resident elephants currently.

It provides a second chance for the majority of these elephants because they were found injured by humans or other animals in their original habitat. - BERNAMA

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