A History of Thailand’s Helpful Elephants

Ty and Caitlin check in from high in the mountains where they get a great look at not just the scenery but also how important elephants are in Thailand.

river, Burma, mountains, Laos

Off the Balcony staring at the mountains in Laos. Photo Credit: Caitlin Grant and Tyler Jorden

Hey Earth Rangers! It’s Ty from Team TC and I wanted to fill you in on what Caitlin and I have been up to! We have just wrapped up volunteering with The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF). We were way up in the northern mountains of Thailand! From our balcony, you could actually see Burma as well as Laos (two countries right next to Thailand)!

Before I tell you guys about volunteering, I first wanted to give you all a little history lesson. Historically, Elephants were work animals in Thailand. Similar to how horses used to plow farmer’s fields, Elephants were used in the timber and logging industry in the mountains of northern Thailand. However, in 1989, this practice was banned, leaving a lot of Elephants and their owners / trainers (called a “Mahout”) out of a job. To make money, the mahouts and their elephants began offering elephant rides and elephant training classes to tourists. Since 1989, the tourism industry has largely filled the void, employing the majority of domesticated Asian elephants in Thailand.

elephant thailand forest eating leaves

Elephant snack time in the forest. Photo Credit: Caitlin Grant and Tyler Jorden

Ty on an elephant in Thailand

Ty taking a stroll with an elephant. Photo Credit: Caitlin Grant and Tyler Jorden

The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF) was created to help abused elephants or elephants unable to make a living for themselves, their mahouts or their families. While the foundation would ideally like to see all elephants in the wild, until that point is reached, they aim to provide and promote ethical work for those elephants and their mahouts that are able. Caitlin and I helped out taking tourists on elephant rides and mahout training course and had a really great time. I found it interesting to get a better glimpse into what the life of domesticated Asian Elephant looks like. It’s sad to say that there is a lot of variability in how the elephants are treated. Some work very long days, without much rest, while others, at the GTAEF for example, are given long periods to rest, eat and drink and enjoy their day.

If ever you are considering any activities involving animals, I think it’s always valuable to ask yourself “How are these animals treated day to day?”, as well as “Is this something I want to support?”

elephants thailand walking

Elephants walking together. Photo Credit: Caitlin Grant and Tyler Jorden

Well Earth Rangers, we sure have had a great time blogging for you. We are wrapping up our trip and are heading home! We’ll be sure to give you one last update once we finally get back in Canada!

Over and out- Ty

Ty and Caitlin are catching a flight back to Canada, but before they dive back fully into Veterinary Collage we’ll get one more update from them to say their final farewells.

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