This is the ninth post in the 2021 Kindness series. Each month I will make a donation to a different nonprofit and write about the organization.
This month’s donation to Golden Triangle Elephant Foundation (GTAEF) was inspired by World Elephant Day, which took place this week. I have written about elephants several times and adopted an elephant at Sheldrick Wildlife Trust as the first donation in the Kindness series. Although both organizations help elephants, their purpose and approach are very different.
I am writing about Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation because Michael and I visited the Elephant Camp in Chiang Rai during our world trip in 2013. It was one of the more memorable experiences of the 8.5-month journey.
About Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation
Asian elephants are an endangered species. There are approximately 6,783 – 7,483 elephants in Thailand: approximately 3,783 captive and 3,000 – 3,500 wild. For years, most captive elephants worked in the logging industry until logging was banned in 1989. Today many elephants work in the tourism industry. Some do not receive proper care and some are abused. There has been much debate over if the elephants should be involved in tourism activities. (See a 2020 journal article Welfare Assessment and Activities of Captive Elephants in Thailand.)
Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation was created in cooperation with Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp and Resort to help captive elephants that work in the tourism industry. “GTAEF strongly believes that in an ideal world all elephants would be wild. This is unfortunately not the case, so until we reach that point, GTAEF aims to assist captive elephants, improving their lives and welfare, while also taking part in conservation and wild elephant programs to ensure the survival of the wild herd.”
Thailand Elephant Camp
The elephants at the camp are owned by their mahout. Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation provides shelter, food, and medical care for the elephant, along with rent, housing, and assistance to the mahout and his family. The intent is to demonstrate a way for mahouts and elephants to earn a living “while maintaining world class standards of care and not resorting to dangerous or demeaning work such as street begging, illegal logging or inappropriate elephant shows.” This partnership helps the elephant and family while providing other benefits and opportunities such as a safe environment for scientists and veterinarians to research elephant behavior and learn the best ways to care for them.
Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation Projects and Activities
In addition to the elephant camp, GTAEF is also involved in several conservation and education projects to protect Asian elephants.
- Teaching other camps about Target Training, a positive reinforcement training for elephants to perform certain tasks.
- Support for the mahouts and their families – for example, a program for the wives to produce silk and create scarves (I purchased one when I visited – a lovely fuchsia shawl with elephants :).
- John Roberts, Director of Elephants & Conservation is involved with several groups like the Asian Captive Elephant Working Group.
- Activities for local kids to learn about elephants.
- Working with other organizations to like Salakphra Wildlife Sanctuary and Kui Buri National Park to protect wild elephants.
- Collaboration with Wildlife Alliance to protect Cambodia’s Cardamom wildlife corridor – a 18,000-hectare forest that is home to 200 wild elephants, clouded leopards, Asiatic wild dogs, sun bears, hog badgers, and birds.