Mahouts Elephant Foundation

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Mahouts Elephant Foundation is a UK registered charity dedicated to improving welfare for captive working elephants, particularly in Asia and with a focus on Thailand. The foundations philosophy of working collaboratively with mahouts and their communities to ensure all parties will benefit is unique, they have a clear understanding and appreciation that the elephant’s welfare is dependent on their mahouts and their living conditions. To fulfil the charities broad remit they focus on raising awareness and educating stakeholders on the important issue of elephant welfare. They also spend a considerable amount of time on the ground in Thailand visiting elephant camps and tourist attractions that feature elephants, spending time gathering research and data on the welfare of the animals, and compiling educational resources. Alongside this work the foundation is working on the ‘Walking Elephants Home’ project, which is their latest success. This project enabled two elephants to be taken from a tourist camp and returned back to the forest near to their mahouts village, it takes into account the needs of the local village community whilst still putting animal welfare at the forefront of its agenda, and this on-going project successfully combines animal welfare with community-based tourism by providing tourists with the opportunity to reside in a home-stay in the village. This is a fantastic opportunity for guests to witness and learn about Asian elephants in their natural environment whilst also having the opportunity to learn about the local traditions and culture of the Karen hill tribe. The Elephant Community Project is now welcoming guests and has four very happy elephants thriving in the vast forest, the foundation has a clear vision and is passionate about the elephants living in the deep forest, encouraging tourists to trek out to see them in their natural habitat, tracking the elephants in the forest with the mahouts is an incredible experience and camping in the forest is simply wonderful.
Member since: 22 Feb 2016

How the minimum criteria of the responsible travel standard was met...

Economic responsibility

• Local agents carry out administrative tasks wherever practicable in Thailand. Tour leaders live in Thailand and contribute full time to the local economies.

• We use indigenous local agents; Thai and Karen 100% of the time for tour activities and chartered transport.

• Our tours are to a real Karen hill tribe village only; we follow a model of community-based tourism thus bringing economic benefit to the whole community.

• A percentage of the tourists payment is donated to the village Elephant Community Fund, this is vital if an elephant becomes sick and needs transporting to the hospital many hours away or for growing supplementary food for sick elephants.

• Mahouts Elephant Foundation itself is a UK registered charity, we are 100%not for profit and our pricing structure clearly represents this. We take a small percentage of the overall cost and this is to help us with the monthly wages for the mahouts to take care of the elephants in the forest.

Environmental responsibility

• All passengers are educated about the fragility of the ecosystems that we visit and are asked to behave accordingly. Our experienced guides provide any necessary clarification of appropriate behaviour. Trekking passengers are told to bring plastic zip-lock bags in which to keep used toilet paper for disposal at an appropriate point.

• All our guides and mahouts are passionate about the forest they have grown up in and teach us so much about how to protect this valuable resource that they want to be home for their elephants and all the wildlife that lives here

• Full and comprehensive details of tours are available in paper-free form on our website, including a PDF version of the brochure. The UK office uses recycled and recyclable materials wherever possible. Biodegradable waste is composted in the company garden.

• Mahouts Elephant Foundation uses, where available, biodegradable or reusable containers for packed lunches on all tours. Refillable bottles are used to transport water while trekking. Where water is a scarce commodity passengers are made aware of the need to be frugal with its consumption. We use as much from the forest as possible, making cups and cooking pots from bamboo.

Social responsibility

• Each guest is furnished with a document advising him or her as to what constitutes appropriate and culturally sensitive dress in South East Asia.

• Our village is “real” our staff make sure people understand that this is the communities home and should always be respectful of that.

• We always aim to eat with the host families and encourage a sharing of cultures.

• We aim to educate our guests about traditional culture.

• We will be documenting the history of the community from the elders of the village and hope to publish this in the near future. This project is being undertaken at the request of the village as a way for them to protect this valuable knowledge.