Elephant Conservation in Thailand

In September 2016 I will be heading out on my first big adventure. I’m off to Thailand for 6 months, working as an intern with a charity called Global Vision International.

GVI have been working hard to rescue the amazing Asian Elephants from the streets and circus performing in order to rehabilitate them into their natural habitat.

Here’s a little bit of background knowledge on Asian Elephants:

There are currently only 1,000 wild Asian Elephants in Thailand and only a further 3,000 in captivity. The number of elephants in captivity may seem okay, however the conditions that many of these animals are made to live and work in can be horrific. In the whole of Asia there are only around 45,000 elephants, compared to the 550,000 elephants in Africa.

Elephants are expensive to care for, and therefore it is made sure that they are used as much as possible to create income, usually through tourism. Elephant tourism is unregulated and while going on a trip labelled ‘ecotourism,’ you may be doing more harm to the environment than good. Elephants have sophisticated social, physical and mental needs, and when these are not met there can be significant health repercussions.

What am I doing and where am I going?

The aim of my trip is to help the reintroduction of these elephants into a protected forest, where they will be monitored and cared for, for the rest of their lives. I will also be monitoring plant biodiversity, as elephants are vital in the spreading of seeds, and general animal biodiversity, as elephants provide water through digging. Northern Thailand is an under-researched area, providing many opportunities to discover new things! I will also be teaching English and working with the local community of Huay Pakoot. The local language is Pakinyaw, although most members also speak Thai and are eager to learn English. This is not only to help with communication between GVI and the community, but also especially useful for the younger members who aspire to leave Huay Pakoot for the cities and university.

Huay Pakoot is in a remote mountainous area, with around 400 inhabitants.They follow Buddhism but also hold animist beliefs, and therefore the elephants hold significant spiritual value to them. The community owns around 60 elephants, but most of them are working in Chiang Mai elephant camps. The local community receives most of their income by renting their elephants to the tourist industry, and so there is now ongoing work into education and providing alternative, sustainable sources of income.

There are currently 9 elephants in the GVI herd, each one is named and has a unique personality! Look out for another blog where I will go into detail about these.

These are the aims set out by GVI:

    • to successfully manage our current semi- wild population of elephants
    • to expand its current herd in order to bring back as many of the village’s elephants as possible
    • to develop local businesses and expand the work opportunities available to the villagers
    • to continue studying elephant foraging and social behaviors, and to share its studies, along with other ethical elephant ideas, within the elephant conservation and veterinary community

I will be undertaking leadership and first aid training courses and then will be placed in charge of one of three areas: elephant behaviour and health care, elephant foraging, or community-related work. There is also an opportunity to work with Burm & Emilly’s Elephant Sanctuary (BEES).

What you can do to help:

My adventure is all about helping the wildlife in Thailand, however I need a little bit of help to get there. There’s a link at the top and on the right hand side to my gofundme page, where you can donate as much or as little as you want. The money will be going to GVI, who require a large amount of money to allow me to go out there. I am funding this trip myself, so any help would be amazing! I also ask that you raise awareness and think twice before booking an elephant riding holiday!

I will be using this blog to keep you updated in what I have been doing working towards this trip, including fundraising and the scary day when I book my flights! Then, once I am in Thailand I will do my best to post regular updates on everything I have been doing. I will also be posting about any interesting conservation articles I come across, in the hope of spreading awareness about how much needs to be done to protect all the animals on our planet!


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