She knows the sound of my motorbike…

…even when I’m still really far away,” said Jon. “She will start calling out for me before I’ve turned down the road.”

Jon has been Mosha’s mahout since she was two years old (now she is five). When she was seven months old, and walking with her mother in the forest near the Thai/Burmese border, Mosha stepped on a landmine. She lost the bottom half of her front right leg and was left with a stump. Friends of the Asian Elephant hospital took Mosha in and have since made a prosthesis for her (which she gamely wears, but does not enjoy. It’s hot and she fiddles with the buckles when it’s on, even though it does help her walk). That said, it’s Mosha’s relationship with her mahout, Jon, who is twenty-six-years old and with her almost 24 hours a day, every day of the week, that blows me away. I first met Jon and Mosha over a year ago. She was a bit smaller and they were still taking naps together in the heat of the afternoon (on blue gym mats, that help her get up and down). Mosha laid down first and then waited for Jon to curl up next to her. He would play idly with her trunk while she fell asleep and then he would often fall asleep too. He says that now she’s too big for this but still, Mosha doesn’t like to sleep if Jon isn’t with her. Now he sits on a chair nearby when she naps. Even at night, Mosha will often wake up, throwing her mats around, until Jon wakes up (he sleeps less than ten yards away) and comes to talk to her. He is rarely outside of her trunk reach and this is how she likes it.

Encouraging Mosha to nap

Since she is unstable on her feet, and lives at a hospital where the only other elephants are sick elephants who need their own particular care, Mosha hasn’t had an elephant family or friend since her mother left (to go back to work after Mosha was weaned). Jon is her main companion and she treats him as such. FAE is looking for a suitable elephant to keep her company but it hasn’t been easy. Healthy elephants are expensive and can earn more money working in tourist camps than keeping a lone elephant company at the hospital. There is also the risk that another elephant could too-easily push Mosha over, injuring and possibly killing her, without even meaning too. So for now, she stays with Jon, and Jon stays with her. For him, this job is a good one, the hospital pays a lot more than if he was a mahout at a tourist camp and since they give him all of his meals and a room, he can save everything he earns to give to his family, and eventually, buy some land of his own in his home village a few hours away.

Here Jon tries to sweep up. Mosha gets interested in the camera and touching the tripod, then in getting Jon to pay attention to her (by laying down on his pile).

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