How can I help elephants?Project & Pod News / 01 March 2023
Elephants are many people’s favourite animal and it’s easy to understand why - they are gentle giants, have strong family bonds and have incredible trunks!
If you are asking yourself, ‘how can I help elephants’ then our Elephant Care project in Thailand could be the perfect volunteer opportunity for you and a dream come true! You can support the vital work the rescue centre is doing in rescuing elephants from places where they have been mistreated or experienced neglect, and providing a sanctuary for them to live, relax and explore.
There are currently 24 elephants who live at the Elephant Care sanctuary alongside over 700 other rescued animals. Sadly elephants in Thailand, both wild and domesticated, are now struggling for their survival. A century ago there were over 100,000 elephants in Thailand, however it is now estimated that there are only around 1,500 in the wild in Thailand’s national park forests and around 3,500 captive domesticated elephants.
The wild population has declined due to habitat destruction, poaching for ivory, and the slaughter of mother elephants to take away their young calves for domestication. Since logging is now a banned industry, elephants have lost a lot of their economic value and as such domesticated elephants are increasingly mistreated, underfed and neglected.
What is a mahout?
A mahout is the name of an elephant owner or trainer. Following the ban on logging, many mahouts turned to tourism; making a living from elephants as tourist attractions or begging on the streets of big cities. The city is a harsh environment for such a large forest animal and they are under constant threat of road accidents, pollution and the scorching heat which can be fatal to a large mammal such as an elephant.
The rescue centre provides an alternative career for the mahouts, providing them with a wage and accommodation in return for their work caring for the elephant in a safe and more natural environment for an elephant.
The elephants now get to spend their days on natural ground, breathing good fresh air, eating as much as they like, with the company of other elephants and having the care of experienced mahouts and veterinary staff.
The real value of a mahout lies in the understanding and knowledge of the animal. A good mahout is able to see when an elephant is in a good or bad mood and to know their temperament or potential triggers. The mahouts at our project have strong bonds with their elephant and deeply care for them in their new home. They often communicate with their elephant by vocal command or nudging its ears.
Why you are needed
The support that volunteers provide the centre is crucial to ensure that every elephant receives the optimum level of care. Despite having mahouts, the centre is overstretched due to the scale of the work and daily care tasks, including preparing lots of food for all the elephants!
The help from volunteers is so valued as it enables the rescue team to meet their care aims but also to focus on other vital tasks such as animal rights campaigning and education.
If you want to find out more about how you can join this amazing project, please see our project page here