We all have been reading the news on how Asian elephants are in big trouble. Whether it is due to human-wildlife conflict, habitat loss, poaching for the entertainment of tourists or low reproduction rates, this endangered species has had a rough time (or couple of decades rather).
In the horizon we have begun to see some positive changes. It is thanks to greater public awareness and to champions of change like Lek Chailert in Chiangmai or Katherine Connor in Sukothai that things are slowly moving forward. The tourist industry has picked up on the humane alternatives they propose and has noticed that visitors want to have to interact more ethically with elephants when they visit Thailand and Asia as a whole.
In recent posts, I have written about the current challenges that Asia’s elephants face and the reasons we need to take action. Today I will talk about the solutions provided by those helping elephants on the ground. By supporting these organizations we will buy the elephants time to heal and thrive and hopefully bring more elephants to safe ground.
As someone who has spent several years raising awareness on the plight of captive elephants, I have met or been in contact with most of the wonderful people running these organizations. I personally donate to most of them regularly, as I believe in their work and in the way they use the funds raised. So here are the 5 organizations that are promoting the humane treatment of elephants in Asia.
1. Save the Asian Elephants (STAE) – This UK-based organization has an assertive and defined approach to the demand on elephant tourism: sensitize visitors on the brutality behind the rides, work with governments to increase protection and welfare and dissuade travel companies from offering touristy activities that promote (and perpetuate) elephant cruelty. Its ongoing campaigns and strong lobbying were brought forth to the European Parliament Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals. Their supporters include celebrities and influential patrons.
Why this organization needs your support - Their comprehensive work has exposed the horrors of the elephant trade and has widely shown why elephant tourism is not only cruel but also unsustainable. None of its members receive any compensation for their work and their awareness activities rely solely on the public’s donations and involvement. Their aim is to inform people that there are other ways to see elephants in a way that prioritizes their happiness, safety and wellbeing.
Why I like this organization – Their far-reaching campaigns and professionalism are admirable. Just this week their current campaign in which they ask India’s Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi to end the cruel treatment of elephants in India has gathered almost 650K, which they shared “is the second largest elephant petition of all time.” I like this organization because it engages all stakeholders while promoting public awareness.
Humane solutions it promotes -
- Involving the British and Indian government to act on the elephants’ behalf to protect them from harm and exploitation
- Visiting only legitimate elephant sanctuaries in Asia were elephants and their mahouts are properly looked after
- Urging tour operators to remove elephant attractions from their holiday itineraries
Main location of working elephants: India, Asia’s elephant camps
♥ Save The Asian Elephants is registered in England and Wales as a community interest company (CIC), which means their assets are used for the public good.
2. Elephant Aid International (EAI) – This US registered non-profit organization has revolutionized the ways elephants are kept in some parts of Asia, including the Banerghatta Biological Park in India, Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary and the hospital at Friends of the Asian Elephant in Thailand and Tiger Tops Elephant Camp in Nepal. EAI has also recently built the Elephant Refuge North America (ERNA) which will be home to elephants that have been rescued from zoos and circuses.
Why this organization needs your support - EAI conducts workshops in Asia to educate mahouts and visitors, governments and companies on the importance of good elephant husbandry practices, elephant welfare (including foot care), release elephants from chains and teach positive reinforcement. It does so through the contributions of donors around the world. EAI’s program to train mahouts and help them improve their handling skills can have a tremendous impact on each elephant they work with. See EAI’s upcoming workshops in Nepal for November 2019 . You can either sponsor a mahout to attend the workshop or you can join one yourself.
Why I like this organization - It was thanks to attending a conference held in Kathmandu some years ago that I met Carol Buckley. After hearing the captive elephants’ story through her, I decided to get involved. Haven’t stopped ever since. EAI is a trusted non-profit that holds a GuideStar’s 2019 Platinum Seal of Transparency. Their efforts have brought relief to hundreds of elephants that never knew freedom from work and/or chains. Many elephants in Asia and now in the U.S. are able to roam around freely, enjoying long walks in safe environments and spend times with those they choose to.
Humane solutions it promotes –
- Releasing elephants from chains and instead, create chain-free corrals to improve their physical and mental wellbeing
- Training of mahouts to teach them humane handling skills, including how to provide the necessary foot care to their elephants and hence prevent infections and disease
- Compassionate care of working elephants through the use of positive reinforcement instead of punishment while using techniques such as food rewards and praise
Main location of working elephants - Nepal, India, Thailand, United States
♥ Elephant Aid International is registered in the US as a 501 c3 non-profit.
3. Association Moey – Touched by a personal encounter with an exhausted working elephant in Thailand, this organization was formed to honor the life and short freedom that Moey the elephant was able to enjoy. For the past seven years, Association Moey has brought relief to dying and sick elephants and to those still working for tourists. Now in Nepal, they have been able to save a new elephant named Lucky Kali from the burdens of work. Lucky Kali is Nepal’s first privately owned elephant to retire in Sauraha, Chitwan.
Why this organization needs your support – This small organization is largely operated by its founder, Lena Quénard. Their ethos is education and compassion through assisting elephants in need. This has meant sometimes paying for medical care of other working elephants, providing foot trimming free of charge, raising emergency funds to cover unforeseen events and, most importantly, it needs our support to help cover the monthly costs of $1,200 for Lucky Kali’s life in retirement.
Why I like this organization – It is the first one of its kind in Sauraha, Chitwan, a popular area in the South of Nepal where such approach is urgently necessary. Many of Nepal’s working elephants are in desperate need of retirement and care. By giving them a life in which mahouts are still employed and elephants are no longer ridden, Association Moey is showing that humane tourism is possible and that people put value in the hands-off approach: walking with elephants and watching them be elephants without any pressure to interact, perform or work for tourists.
Humane solutions it promotes -
- Respectfully observe and learn about Sauraha’s first retired elephant by providing an alternative to elephant rides
- Educate the public about elephant welfare by sharing Lucky Kali’s success story
- Improve the health of local working elephants through foot trimming, a skill that the founder has learned and mastered over years of training
Main location of working elephants - Nepal (Sauraha, Chitwan)
♥ Association Moey is registered in Switzerland as a non-profit organization.
4. Wildlife S.O.S. - As a leading conservation organization in South Asia, Wildlife S.O.S is dedicated to helping injured and abused elephants. They provide medical care to wounded and dehydrated elephants still working and begging on the streets as a result of their exploitation. Additionally, they work closely together with some of the government institutions in different parts of India to ensure a way to promote a better treatment of elephants living in captivity.
In 2018, Wildlife SOS inaugurated the first Elephant Hospital in India, where elephants are already receiving treatment.
Why this organization needs your support: Wildlife S.O.S is home to rescued elephants; but also to other species that have been injured and neglected such as sun bears, leopards, reptiles and primates. Some of them have been released into the wild while others remain as permanent residents at their various facilities. Their work relies primarily on donations and sponsorship of these animals.
Why I like this organization: Aside from the dozens of elephant rescues they have carried out, including the Raju’s, the beloved elephant who was chained for 50 years, they have built India’s first elephant hospital which was inaugurated in 2018. They also have an ongoing campaign in India called Refuse to Ride to end Jaipur’s exploitative business of forcing sick elephants (included blind and injured ones) to give tourist rides. You can also volunteer at their rescue facilities.
Humane solutions it promotes:
- Rescue and rehabilitation of abused elephants (and other species)
- Conservation awareness engaging the local communities
- Campaigning against elephant rides at the Amber Fort in Jaipur, India
Main location of working elephants: India
♥ Wildlife S.O.S. is registered in the US as a 501 c3 non-profit and as a charity in the UK
5. Mandalao Elephant Conservation – Featured in CNN, Forbes and Vanity Fair and promoted by World Animal Protection, Mandalo Tours was founded by Michael Vogler, an environmentalist whose background in wildlife and environmental conservation gave him the tools to start the project close to Lao’s capital, Luang Prabang. Thanks to their understanding on the importance of elephant bonds, they were able to bring and keep together a group of seven former working elephants to their camp, including a mother and her son Baby Kit who is two now.
Why this organization needs your support: The costs of properly caring for elephants are quite high. In order to continue to look after their own and to help working elephants in need, they encourage visitors and people around the world to help fund their operations. This organization needs your support to continue to buy medicines for sick working elephants through the Lao Elephant Initiative and to help rescue more elephants who work in the logging industry.
Why I like this organization: They are a non-riding ethical tour company who also started the conservation project that helps both working elephants and their wild counterparts. They recently launched the digital conference The Future of the Asian Elephants: Current Status and Conservation Goals, which will be preceded by a panel of experts in the field from September 12-26, 2019. You can sign up here.
Humane solutions it promotes:
- Responsible tourism through a non-riding experience
- Conservation of elephant habitat in the Nam Poui National Park
- Promotes humane and ethical treatment of elephants through positive reinforcement and encouragement of natural behavior
Main location of working elephants: Laos
♥ Lao Elephant Initiative is registered in the US as a 501 c3 non-profit.
There you have it. These 5 trusted organizations are recognized for the humane values they promote and for their legitimate concern over the welfare of elephants in captivity. Their work is crucial to ensure that they continue to support an ethical treatment of elephants in their areas of influence.
Your support is most valuable. Perhaps your birthday or your wedding is coming up? Or maybe a friend of yours is an elephant-lover? What better way to give them something meaningful that really makes a difference!
Thank you for being here and thank you for helping elephants in need.
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