Kwan Jai's rescue

When Jack first met the elephant he would rescue she was standing dull and rather lack lustre chained to a tree. She was old, very old, possibly in her 80’s and her eye lashes were gone, most likely made into rings and sold as souvenirs. With nothing to protect her eyes, infection had begun to set in and she was severely dehydrated. Despite an uncorrected broken back leg, she was still expected to carry tourists upon her back 11 hours a day, 7 days a week, although her mobility wasn’t hindered by this old injury nor did it appear to cause her any obvious pain.

Jack gave her the name Kwan Jai, which in Thai means 'beloved', but as a 9 year old he took that  to mean ‘be loved’ declaring, "I'm going to love her for the rest of her life." It was to be the most perfect of names he could have ever chosen.

Twenty four long hours they travelled together to reach her new home, Jack turning down the luxury of the following support van. It was a gruelling eventful journey which saw Kwan Jai suffering from diarrhoea and in her discomfort, breaking the supports that surrounded her and her back legs up and over the high railings. At this point she was in great peril and the truck in danger of tipping with Jack trapped in front of her. He was certainly in a precarious position that worried everyone, including it seemed Kwan Jai. Never taking her eyes off him, showing for the first time her true colours, she calmed completely, not moving a muscle, allowing Jack to escape round her trunk and under her twisted body. Once he was safely offloaded her thrashing about resumed.

Freedom crossing  

With his long time friend Raki catching a ride on his back, Jack walked Kwan Jai out into the sanctuary that was now her home. Initially she moved stiffly and with apprehension. But when no command or punishment came her way, she stopped for a quiet moment with Jack as if to thank him, then took her first confident stride into anew life of freedom. Another and another followed. She walked and walked for days and weeks after that – because she could, she was free.

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lollipop lollipop oh lolli lollipop

Rather than the earth shaking giants one might expect them to be, elephants are in fact quite stealth and able to sneak up on you without a single sound or vibration. The first time Kwan Jai surprised Jack from behind, his mother was understandably a tad concerned. Lifting her trunk up over his head, Kwan Jai opened her mouth wide, promptly placing Jack's head in her mouth. Cool, calm and collected, Jack happily chirped, “Look mum, she thinks I’m a lollypop”. This was a taste of things to come as it became Kwan Jai’s favoured sign of affection towards her best friend.

a language all their own.

Jack and Kwan Jai had their own language that they alone seemed to share and understand. She hated the discharge that oozed from her infected eyes. Placing her trunk under them, Jack instantly knew what she wanted and did as she’d asked.

During her early days at ENP it was suspected Kwan Jai may have had partial paralysis of her trunk. It was a reasonable assumption as she hadn’t been seen to feed herself and this was concerning. However with relief and much humour, it was eventually diagnosed as a condition known as ‘too much caring by Jack’. He was taking very good care of all her needs – her every desire. That meant her food was washed, peeled, cut and fed directly into her mouth. It was a case of, “if I’m going to be fed, why waste my energy lifting my trunk fully when I don’t need to”.

As she pulled down tree after tree, Kwan Jai’s mahout tried frantically to entice her away from them using bananas, but to no avail. Seeing what was happening, Jack ran over to offer his help. Instantly he had her attention and she dropped the tree she had hold of and happily trotted off after him, leaving the last few remaining trees in the stand to survive.

Speaking to Kwan Jai as if she were his pet dog, in a language she surely would have had no experience with and no bribe in hand; it made no sense at all how she understood what Jack wanted of her. It was also baffling how Jack understood in return, her body language that experts may have struggled to interpret. But they did understand each other, and THAT is what blew people away, what made their relationship so unique, so incredibly special.

Mud, mud, glorious mud

Every time Lek, owner of ENP, or her husband Darrick saw Jack, he’d be covered in mud. Darrick always asked if he'd been under his elephant again, while Lek with a giant smile, would promptly send him off to get another clean shirt from the gift shop. Jack went home after each visit with a suitcase full of ENP t-shirts.

How did he manage to get his clothes so dirty? MUD FIGHTS!!!!!

Jack and Kwan Jai were the ultimate team. Jack hosed the ground with water, while Kwan Jai rubbed her foot around and around to combine the dirt and water to create mud. Then away they’d go.

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Hide and Seek

Kwan Jai had a rather unfriendly way of introducing herself to others of her kind, stabbing her unusually long tushes into their backs. As a result, she found herself seriously injured after an altercation with another elephant, dislocating her hip. She was low, missing Jack more than likely, and moved about only minimally. A month after her accident very little improvement had occurred. However, upon Jack's return there was a marked improvement in her entire demeanour almost immediately. She held herself a little taller, began to smile again, became more playful, and her mobility increased an incredible amount as she strove to keep up with Jack.

Jack’s favourite game and therapy for Kwan Jai, was to play hide and seek. Jack would hide in the tall grass and wait for Kwan Jai to find him. Over and over this was repeated until Jack sensed she was tiring and would pretend to be asleep, letting Kwan Jai sneak up and finally catch him. The share delight you would see on her face was hard to miss – ‘gotcha’.

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diggers, dump trucks and an elephant

Almost as famous for playing with his diggers and dump trucks as he was for rescuing elephants, Jack never arrived at ENP without them. The colour of bananas, they always demanded Kwan Jai’s investigation, but once she’d determined they were inedible; her interest in them was lost.

One day Jack discovered a prime location for one of his construction sites and started without her. Seeing him in the distance, Kwan Jai sent everyone in her path scattering as she ran to be with him. Nobody would have stood a chance at stopping her. The only one unconcerned about a charging elephant was Jack.    

So clever

We’re accustomed as humans to use objects as tools to alleviate an itch, but it never ceased to amaze Jack that Kwan Jai had the same ability with an equal amount of dexterity as any human. She would find pieces of wood and break them down into more manageable sizes, or maybe she was sharpening the ends in order to better relieve herself of her discomfort. It was incredible to witness the skill that she possessed and it made Jack astutely aware just how much humans have in common with our animal counterparts – far more than they are credited with.

A love like no other

Close physical contact is something we humans need and thrive on, it is not usually something an elephant would crave from a human, although they do with others of their own kind. Kwan Jai however, did and went to great lengths at times to obtain that closeness with Jack. In her last days she was in pain and movement was very difficult and laboured for her. Yet despite this, she used everything she had in her to reach Jack when he wasn’t close enough to her - often attempting to push her head under his arm in her desire for a cuddle.  

the colour pink!

Other than Jack, it was certainly a fact Kwan Jai did not approve of anyone wearing hats in her presence, most of all medical staff. If you were rude enough in her opinion to be wearing one and were within her reach, it was deftly flicked from your head.

One day however, someone wearing a pink hat managed to keep it upon their head when they were up close to Kwan Jai. It was so out of her character, it left everyone wondering why. Highly scientific testing ensued. Gingham pink, hot pink, it didn’t matter as long as it was pink, Kwan Jai allowed pink hats hats to remain on heads. So conclusive testing had proved beyond doubt that Kwan Jai’s favourite colour was indeed pink.

A few friends and of course vet staff, knew of this colour preference; but Jack and his mother were unaware of just how far the legend had spread until the day of her funeral. Tamarind, pineapple and steamed pumpkin were all out of season, so too were flowers. Yet somehow with the shortest of notice, kitchen staff had sourced not only her favourite delicacies and arranged them about her mouth and trunk, but also enough pink flowers to delicately blanket her entire body. It was the most thoughtful and fitting gesture they could have given to her.  

Thailand is primarily a Buddhist country and reincarnation plays a strong role in the faiths religious doctrine. So it was not a surprise that many at ENP held the belief that Kwan Jai in a past life, had had and lost a baby, that Jack was indeed that child. Wither you believe in reincarnation or not, the fact still remains that from their very first meeting, it felt to those that were there, Kwan Jai and Jack seemed to know each other, and she mothered and protected him until her very last day.