Michael's Dispatches

The Jungle Twins


This photo might look strange because it was made with my iPhone4 using the HDR Pro app.

And finally there she was.· Momma and her two daughters, whose birthday, Mr. Maearhae said, was 8 October. The very rare luk chang fad, in person.· (Baby elephant twins.)


Mom gave us a hard look but she seemed fine.· She had a chain on her left front foot and so I wondered why she was hard to find in the jungle, but I didn’t ask if she was tied up out there.· (Should have asked.)


Mom’s name is Maekummoon and she 32 years old. I asked about the dad, and Mr. Maearhae said the dad was Maekummoon’s brother, and the calves are incest babies.

After a few minutes, Maekummoon let out a loud purr that elephants sometimes do, and so I thought it was safe to come close, and the two men said it was okay.

Maekummoon checks out my new iPhone4 just as it captures this image.

The babies just looked at us but didn’t come close or seem concerned.· If your mom is an elephant, a grizzly, or a woman with a shotgun, there isn’t much to be concerned about.

The men said that Maekummoon was having some kind of eye problem and they had called the elephant doctor down in Chiang Mai, and he was on his way.· Talk about a house call.· I asked how much it would cost and they said it’s free.· That sounds like a story for another time.· (The higher resolution photos are made with a Canon Mark IV 1d and a 5d Mark II.).

To nurse, or to play, that is the question: the babies couldn’t seem to make up their minds.

The luk chang fad would not stray farther than about the range of momma’s trunk.· They often stayed between her front legs or under her stomach, but if you came close they would come out to play.· The twins don’t have names yet.· Maybe one of those Thai naming competitions might unfold.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    john lawrence · 10 years ago
    I really like the new format, picture / letters.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dennis · 10 years ago
    What's true for elephants is true for people too. Great work Michael! Your travels/insights help us see the world (and the people in it) as our brothers & sisters on this planet. Enjoy your vacation and time at home!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Steve Carson · 10 years ago
    Love the format, great content. Thank You.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Pete G. · 10 years ago
    If this is a sample of what your new "raw" format will be like, then you have found the best way yet of posting new dispatches. Great pictures, great story. But it's nothing short of what I've come to expect of your reporting no matter where it is coming from. You are a breath of fresh air in a world of polluted stories from every other corner of the globe. I have followed your dispatches for several years and like fine wine, you just keep getting better as time goes by. I wish you the very best in this new year. May you stay safe, healthy and happy. Take care and God bless!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Marjorie Harris · 10 years ago
    Love the elephant and people pictures. You take us places most of us will never go - I know I won't. I love all your photos and the commentary with them. Be safe and keep up the true and good work.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Linda Lee Brecht · 10 years ago
    Love the "Picture letter." I couldn't stop reading! Really I need to get to work but was enthralled. GREAT CONTENT!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Virginia · 10 years ago
    I really enjoyed the foemat of pictures/letters. Thanks!
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    Susannah · 10 years ago
    I read it aloud to my children and we really enjoyed it! The baby elephants are so cute! And I loved that you slipped in a Major Payne reference. LOL! Also, "as the rocket flies" amused me.

    Thank you for sharing with world with us, Michael.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Bill Cattley · 10 years ago
    Brother Michael,

    Nice format and as always, your pictures/writing put us right in the action. Hope you had a great Christmas and Happy New Year while recharging your batteries.


    Bill Cattley
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mary Houser · 10 years ago
    Michael, Just saying "thanks" doesn't seem enough.....can't even tell you what your stories do for me and my kids. Today, on the first day of the year 2011, I went to see the baby elephants with their mama in the Thai forest....thanks for taking me there! Keep the dispatches and pics coming. They are healing for our souls.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Carol E. · 10 years ago
    Fascinating glimpse of life in the Thai jungle -- like spending time between the covers of National Geographic! Interesting to note the clothing some of the children were wearing (Superman log and speculate on how the clothing got there. No way could I squat like the adults were doing in that circle formation with their feet flat on the ground. (I tried!) Really enjoyed this photo-letter. Thanks so much!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sharon Hern · 10 years ago
    This was such a treat. I have been in remote Thai villages and enjoy the people and the scenery. I stayed four days and nights in one village and got to see how the people live and interact with them. It was an Arka village and I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to meet these wonderful people. I didn't get to see any elephants in the wild like the experience you had, thanks for sharing. I really like the new format. Thanks again.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Traci Wilberger, Las · 10 years ago
    Thanks Michael! What a fascinating life you lead! Love the story! Your photos and info give me much to ponder and appreciate. I love to see different peoples of the world, so many smiles! Also love the format. Happy New Year!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    R. Bradley Bonds · 10 years ago
    For many years, that is how I feel you treat us and care about us...extra nice. Actually, a lot more than ever. Your voice gets stronger and better. No wonder everyone is so loyal to you. What Mary said is for me too: "Thanks for taking me there [to see the twin baby girl elephants]! They are healing for our souls." Another thing is, I predict one of these pics could be another one of Michael Yon's world class iconic photographs. It's the first one on page 7, about her gnawing on Mr Kapor’s shoulder! Pretty and fun! I hope we can save the elephants!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kelley Smith · 10 years ago
    Michael- what a great format! It's really great to go trekking with you. I had seen most of these pics already, but this was next best to going with you. You continue to amaze us!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sanford · 10 years ago
    Fascinating dispatch on the twin Tailand elephants! I forwarded this to my daughter, Heidi, who works at the San Diego Zoo.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sanford · 10 years ago
    If this is sent twice, its because I made a mistake. I forwarded your elephant twins dispatch to my daughter, Heidi, who works at the San Diego Zoo. I know she will appreciate not only your pictures but also your commentary. I can tell you love the animals and people. I appreciate your perspective much more than any other news source.

  • This commment is unpublished.
    sandy · 10 years ago
    I love the new format.................. amazing..........it almost makes me feel I am there with you. love it.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    John Roberts · 10 years ago
    Hi Michael

    Try to answer a few of your queries in the piece, though I'm just getting a handle on the Garieng methods of looking after elephants (http://bit.ly/e xdCm - for a brief overview) as we work mainly with the Isaan Chao Gwi however.

    Chain: no way of telling whether she was chained or not but sometimes they leave the adults out there with a 0 yard 'drag' chain - so not attached to anything but so that it makes a noise and a trail when the elephant roams - easier to find.

    The Vet/House call thing: The Thai Elephant Conservation Centre offer a free mobile clinic to all the elephants in Thailand (but at the moment, practically the North as they're based in Lampang) our vet, Dr Cherry, goes with them sometimes - can give you more details when you're ready to write that 'other story'.

    Great piece and feeds into my fascination with the old ways of elephant management, incest breeding would be a bit of a worry.


  • This commment is unpublished.
    sjd · 10 years ago
    ...For the baby elephants and for 2011. God Bless you and your work. Be safe.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    TerriLPN · 10 years ago
    I Love seeing the World through your eyes, Michael! The babies w/ the momma elephant opens us to see things we may never get to see but dream of. It is a Fabulous World! Thank You So Much! May God Bless you and keep you safe. Looking forward to more dispatches!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    scott Dudley · 10 years ago
    Worthyof a National Geographic spread with the elephant eye as a cover!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Doya Meade · 10 years ago
    I follow you now all the time. I love your e-mails and posts. This one was especially good. I like the way you tell the stories - truthfully! Keep up the good work Michael and keep them coming. Hope 2011 brings great things your way. Good Luck and be safe.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Joe Norman · 10 years ago
    What a wonderful "New Year" gift from you to us! LOVED it!
    Be safe. We depend on you for the TRUTH!!
    Good luck and GOD bless.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    John Lukens · 10 years ago
    My wife Thitiya loved the elephant pictures. Cute little rascals. An elephant baby about that old butted a friend who was taking a picture of the baby. My friend never saw it coming! You have a nice feel for the countryside.

    One or two inaccuracies, not surprising when you come in on a flying visit. On page , I think, you said the Karen are hilltribe people and have opium. Although they look it, they aren't a hill tribe people, and never grow opium. On the sign with the village name, below it there is a board painted red that says there is a penalty for bringing drugs of any sort into the village.

    The Karen traditionally have made their living from logging, using elephants. The houses are made of bamboo so that the buildings in the entire village can be dismantled within a day and moved to a new location. However, this village might be relatively permanent, because it has a school. The sign on the school says that the school is a project of the Mae Faa Luang foundation. (The sign also mistakenly says that they are "Thai Hilltribe people".)

    The Foundation’s purpose is to help hill tribe people who grown opium to turn to cultivation of other cash crops. It’s not completely effective because nothing is as lucrative as growing opium, especially when you are a day or two from the nearest road. Don’t know how or why the Foundation is working with the Karen, unless the Foundation has broadened the scope of their activities. But that might account for your thinking that the Karen grow opium.

    Nice job.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Michael Yon Author · 10 years ago
    I greatly appreciated the kind words and also some with clues that can help in further research.

    Small note: These Karen told me they had grown opium but had switched to other crops.

    It's really worth your time to go out there if you get the chance. Very nice if bumpy ride.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    J Kaur · 10 years ago
    the first page you made reference to a cannibal in India --- what are you talking about ???? this person eats other humans???
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Randy Klug · 10 years ago
    Very interesting and great photos!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    J. Worthington · 10 years ago
    Excellent as always - you are a superb story teller that makes a person wanting to hear and see more.


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