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The many faces of GVI Chiang Mai

By David Barraclough 3 years ago
Categories Chiang Mai

The main feature of the GVI Chiang Mai program is the elephant conservation and the studies into how semi-wild elephants differ to captive elephants. The things we look into involve the way that the elephants in our two herds interact with each other, but after the birth of baby Wan Mai we also are looking into many other aspects of elephant life including allomothering and elephant development from an infant to adult.


Getting involved with these projects is fantastic and eye opening, but this is not all that GVI offers here. There are so many different projects you can get involved in and undertake whilst you are here. One of the other projects run here is community involvement. This is where we go into the school and nursery to teach the children of the village English with the aim to one day teach them about sustainability and being more ecofriendly. Teaching the children of the village is a pleasure and a delight, even when they decide it’s the best fun in the world to attach beetles to my clothes in lessons. The children here are eager to learn, and I am eager to teach them what I can, minus the beetles.



David teaching his Grade 2 children their body parts


The project that I have decided to get involved with is the Biodiversity project. This is where we study the other wildlife found here in Huay Pakoot, such as frogs, butterflies and birds. I am working with the Bio team in an attempt to be able to identify birds that we have in the village. We go out weekly onto different trails that we have around the village and search for birds, which is not as easy as you would hope what with some of the most common birds we have here being green and the size of a leaf. This is what entices you, the hope to see a bird and the desire to identify them.


I quickly fell in love with birding on one of our first Bio hikes when the immense variety of birds you could see on a 2+ hour hike shocked me. From Striated Swallows to Drongos of all varieties, each bird is unique and has evolved in many different ways to deal with living at altitude and in this humid jungle environment. At present we are trying to identify all the different species of birds that we get here. In the past few hikes that I have been on we have identified a new species for us which is the Rufescent Prinia (see cover photo).  After identifying, we saw about eight more flying overhead. On another hike we discovered either a Black-Naped Oriole or a Slender-Billed Oriole juvenile. When reading up the descriptions we found that it is almost impossible to tell the difference between the birds when they are juvenile, which was both frustrating and amazing to learn about that these birds are born looking identical and then change almost entirely when they become adults.


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This juvenile oriole could be a Black-naped or a Slender-billed – unfortunately until it grows up we can’t be sure!



Whilst I am here in Huay Pakoot I have been given a project by the Bio team, and this is to learn to identify birds by their song. This is something that I have thrown myself into with gusto and it will mean that hopefully one day soon I will be able to go out with the Bio team and help them identify birds much more efficiently. Hopefully this will mean that we will not have another incident like the Black-Naped Oriole or Slender-Billed Oriole misunderstanding.


In the short amount of time that I have been here it is easy to see that Huay Pakoot has opened my eyes and gotten under my skin. From the enigmatic elephants to the creepy crawlies to birds big and small. Huay Pakoot will forever have a place in my heart, it has changed my life and I will forever be grateful for this experience.