First, I meet with the Karen in their villages. I want to make a list of which plants are used to treat sick elephants. I would like to know how the plants are used. What did they cure?
To make my plant list, I have to ask a lot of questions. The Karen and I do not speak the same language. So, an interpreter helps me. It is hard work, but I learn a lot.
Next, we go into the forest. We collect samples of key plants. I dry them in a plant press. I label each one. They are kept in a library for plant samples. It's called an herbarium.
The Karen and I work together for months. We find 34 plants used in elephant medicine. The most common treatment is used to keep elephants healthy. The mahouts mix the plants with rice and fruits to make a tasty pellet.
This plant is used to treat broken bones in humans and elephants.
The stem and flower of this plant are fed to elephants to treat indigestion.
Other plants are used to treat wounds, eye problems, or broken bones. Some plants are ground up. Others are boiled in water for elephants to drink.
Number of plants used for medical treatments of elephants:
These plant parts are the most used for elephant medicine:
Whole plants 15%