Elephant dad: It takes years for elephants to fully trust me

In the Asian Elephant Breeding and Rescue Center of Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, southwest China’s Yunnan Province, there are 8 injured wild Asian elephants, and 22 professional Asian elephant nurses called "elephant dads" take good care of them every day. Recently, the elephant dad Xiong Chaoyong was interviewed by our reporter.

Reporter: What are the items for the elephant physical checkups at the rescue center?

Xiong: The elephant physical examination in the rescue center is divided into daily physical examination and annual regular physical examination. Elephants in the rescue center have routine physical examinations every day, including body temperature measurement (usually 35℃ to 37℃), stool test and dental examination. The annual physical examination includes blood examination, EEHV virus detection, stool test, and more.

Reporter: What are the common diseases of elephants in the rescue center?

Xiong: The common diseases of elephants are gastrointestinal ones, such as intestinal obstruction. When an elephant suffers from intestinal obstruction, we will find an "elephant dad" with a long arm to manually dig out the feces of the elephant in addition to medical treatment. The feces dig-out weighs a maximum of 11.5 kg each time.

Reporter: How long will it take for elephants to fully trust the "elephant dad"?

Xiong: It usually takes half a year to three years for elephants rescued by us to fully trust the "elephant dad". The younger the elephant is, the easier it is to establish the emotional link with humans. And it takes longer time for male elephants. We need to interact with them every day, feed them, bathe them, massage them, take them to the jungle for wild training, and speak to them softly.

Reporter: What food do elephants like best in the rescue center?

Xiong: Elephants love many foods, such as carrots, corn, bananas, sugar cane, pineapples and so on, but corn is their favorite.

Reporter: Can the rescued elephant return to the forest after being cured?

Xiong: We "elephant dads" usually take these rescued elephants to the field for training, so that they can return to the forest and find their loved ones after recovery. Usually, "elephant dads" will guide them back to the wild following their health recovery, but some elephants are hard to be accepted by their original herd. So we "elephant dads" have to help the elephants to have a new family in the rescue center.

Reporter: The baby elephants in the conservation center are so cute. Do they like being petted?

Xiong: Like puppies and kittens, elephants enjoy being touched, but they’d like others to touch their foreheads or cheeks.

Reporter: Will elephants grow permanent teeth?

Xiong: Elephants need to grow all their 24 permanent teeth upon six occasions in their life. Whenever elephants grow permanent teeth, "elephant dads" will provide some soft food for them.

Reporter: The baby elephants in the migrating herd have most fans at home and abroad. What’s the weight of each baby?

Xiong: They may each weigh more than 100kg. To tell you the truth, the Asian elephant baby, after an 18 to 24-month growth within the mother’s body, weighs 70-100kg at birth. The female elephants can only give birth when they are 16 years old, and the birth interval is 5-8 years. The baby elephants will not be weaned until they are 3-5 years old.

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