Star’s birth on September, 18, 2007 was cause for huge celebration. Not only was she the first calf to be born at BLES, she was the first calf to be born in our village of Baan Tuek.
A traditional logging community, elephants have played a central role in the lives of the villagers here for centuries. Fully trained adult elephants were bought and immediately put to work, providing a generous income for the owner and their families. There was little tourist trade prior to the logging ban in 1989. Consequently, the exploitation of baby elephants had not begun. In fact, owners of adult females preferred their cows not to have calves as it meant a period of at least three years when the mother could not work. Considered something of a burden, a calf was too small to work and too expensive to keep.
Star is the first calf of Pang Noi. Rigorous logging compromised her labour and Star was born three months premature. The veterinarian who examined Pang Noi when she was first rescued expressed concern for the viability of the fetus. It was impossible to determine how much damage her high distress had caused the unborn calf, but the chance of survival was predicted to be 50%.
Star was born in the middle of the night in our forest. Alerted by Pang Noi’s cries, Anon went to investigate and was unprepared to find a small, round, healthy, baby elephant facing him. Quick to stand, she wandered off to explore her new world and met Anon face on.
On May 24, 2010, there was a heavy rain storm. Star was in the forest and instead of taking shelter under her mother’s belly, she was dancing in the rain, rolling in the mud, and loving her life. The storm turned its attention to Star and sent a flash of lightning down to strike her. The shock was too much for her little round body. She died instantly.
Banner photograph: Peggy Dyer