Right from its inception, OurLand was set up as a wildlife reserve, a privately owned and managed piece of land that allows wildlife to go through it and eventually access the Kwai Yai River, a primary water source.
At a time when elephant populations worldwide are on the decline, it only made sense to return the elephant to a small part of its habitat in which it once roamed freely.
The objective of the project was to support elephant populations by allowing access, and also easing tensions between local farmers and the elephants.
With an estimated asian elephant population in the Salakphra Wildlife reserve at about 300, conservationists claim that there isn't enough foraging space for these elephants.
Take a look at the video below to see what OurLand does.
Despite being an organization whose core objective has been to protect wild elephants, its important to note that there are two sides to living with elephants.
Below is a picture of the water pipe that comes out of our water tank. It has nails welded to it so that the elephant does not get a good grip to pull it off. Countless times we have woken up in the morning to a broken pipe, and all our precious water drained out. Ever since we set this up, we’ve not had a case of the pipes being pulled out.
Living with these majestic beings for the past 6 years has been the most amazing experience of my life. But I have to say that living with elephants is not easy, it's not something that everyone can easily adapt to. Despite being so amazed and mesmerized by their beauty, their destructive ability is one that you truly need much patience to accept.
Over the years, we at OurLAnd have learned that if we dont ‘elephant proof’ everything, then we will surely lose it.
Water is a crucial element of life, I don't think we humans, or atleast most humans really ever understand how important water is. Try not drinking water for one day, and you’ll start to skim the surface of what these wild elephants go through.
An elephant consumes 150-200 litres of water in one day. In summer seasons, when water reserves inside the Salakphra reserve run dry, elephants have to wait almost a day before they can cross over the road and get to the river. Which is where trouble starts with any villagers living between Salakphra and the river.
Any water bearing container will become a target by the elephants. We learned this the hard way in our first year. We would leave bird water feeders, watering cans and barrels outside, only to find it completely crushed the next day.
Not only was the water gone, but the container itself would be crushed to beyond use. Remember that it's been proven in Africa that elephants can smell water from over 19kms, so anywhere there is water, they will find it, especially when they have been this thirsty all day.
Above picture - A Wild elephant visits OurLand in search of Mangoes.
I still remember trying to salvage a large plastic barrel that we had paid 450 THB for. The elephant had simply crushed it down the middle after consuming the water. We stuck a stick down the flattened barrel, and spent a good one hour trying to straighten it out, and finally succeeded only to have a weirdly shaped barrel that leaked from one of the points that had been folded by the elephant.
The thing is, in normal living, even when you live maybe in a rural place, you just don't think about protecting your water containers. You don't expect a big large being to come and destroy everything that contains water.
Month by month, we learned this lesson. If it contains water, it either has to be kept indoors, or high up, or protected from the elephant somehow.
Take the case of our main water tank, not only did we have to place it 3 meters high up, but we also had bamboo pillars attached to its side, so that the elephant would not pull down the whole tank.
When we thought of building our rain water harvesting tank, we were so tempted to go for a plastic tank, which would have cost us only THB 6000, but instead we ended up spending THB 20,000 for a concrete ring tank, and I am so grateful for doing this.
Because I have watched several nights, as the elephant moves its trunk around the edges of the tank, sniffing the water, and trying to get inside, only to eventually give up after several minutes.
It doesn't end there however, elephants will often find their way to the weak spot of the tank, which is where the tank connects to the PVC pipe. They will use their powerful trunks to crack the pipes and then drink the water.
But at the end of the day, these are just beings that are trying to drink water, and the reason why they are so desperate for water is because we humans have taken away their access to water, and we’ve built roads across their habitat, making it hard for them to get to the water.
At OurLand, about 3 years ago, we took a broken old plastic septic tank and cut it into two. We dug out a huge hole in the ground and put one of these parts into that hole. This now serves as a watering hole for the wild elephants, as it holds about 1000 litres. I must say, there is no feeling like watching elephants coming for a drink here!
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