Everyone has a catalyst to her passion. Although it was “The Lion King” that convinced me to become a veterinarian, it was working with elephants that converted me to the “wild” side. I started working with elephants in Thailand when I was sixteen, where I became certified as a junior mahout, or elephant master. My elephant adventures at first were less medical and more purely adventurous: training elephants, trekking on camping trips through the jungle on elephants, bringing elephants to local villages for prayer, and learning more about the historical, cultural, and religious importance of the Asian elephant in Thailand.
One of the best modes of transportation, especially across mountains and through snake-infested rivers is via elephant. Overnight excursions were always the best part of the adventure. Throughout the day, I would ride my elephant, usually Tantawan, which means “sunflower” in Thai. Before night would close the other mahouts and travelers would set up camp, set up a fire, forage for different natural foods such as bamboo shoots, shower in the waterfalls, and decide who stands watch at each time of the night. Due to the risk of contracting malaria we would sleep in hammocks walled by mosquito nets. Every moment beneath the breathtaking starry sky was worth every second of whatever danger lingered in the darkness of the jungle. It wasn’t just the elephants that made me feel so small, but so, too, did the sky above. Within that smallness, though, I felt great power in the form of trust and respect earned from a creature as noble as the elephant.
As I grew more experienced with veterinary medicine, I became more involved with the work at the veterinary hospital, making my overnight adventures to villages more infrequent. This was fundamental to pushing me “over the edge”. It was at this hospital where I met beloved, Khun Chai, my baby elephant who had been stolen from his mother in the wild and who had been rescued by The Elephant Hospital where I worked. It was the bond that I developed with Khun Chai that turned Gabby “Wild”.Back to top