Mahouts Elephant Foundation Becomes Finalist For €30,000 Conservation Project Grant

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Elephant Welfare and Conservation Organization is Recognized for its Work

Mahouts Elephant Foundation (MEF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of Asian elephants. They recently became a finalist for a prestigious conservation grant from the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA). As a finalist, Mahouts Elephant Foundation has the opportunity to compete for €30,000 to expand their work to rescue more elephants, protect more native habitat, and provide alternative income to local villagers. The grant will also help support scientific research into elephant behavior with scientists from the Centre for Compassionate Conservation at the University of Technology Sydney.

Of the importance of such research, Dr. Liv Baker, a conservation behaviorist from the Centre, said, “There is a paucity of scientific research on Asian elephants. A documented body of scientific literature will be crucial to inform future Asian elephant conservation and protection projects… We know that this research will provide important knowledge to improve the lives of elephants and the people that care for them.”

The €30,000 grant would enable 1) the rescue of more elephants and return to natural forest habitat; 2) the conservation and reforestation native elephant habitat; 3) a dedicated income source for the local mahouts and their families without compromising the welfare of elephants; 4) improvements to the village infrastructure to increase quality of life for the villagers and to accommodate homestays by Eco tourists.

As one Eco tourist said, “Mahouts Elephant Foundation is truly dedicated to this project and has the villagers, the mahouts, and the elephants at the heart of their vision. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for the elephants and the village and cannot recommend a visit to this project enough!"

Mahouts Elephant Foundation needs your votes!
EOCA stages a public vote from March 9-23 with the winner guaranteed the €30,000.
Please vote for the Mahouts Elephant Foundation project, A New Ecotourism in Thailand at

http://www.outdoorconservation.eu/project-voting-category.cfm?catid=5.

About Mahouts Elephant Foundation:

MEF has a mission to facilitate the return of captive, working elephants to protected forest habitat. MEF forms community, educational and research partnerships to achieve this goal and works on the ground to develop sustainable, welfare-focused tourist experiences to support the needs and livelihoods of the elephants, the mahouts (traditional elephant keepers), and their families. MEF’s work on the ground is based in a hill tribe village in Mae Chaem district of Northern Thailand.

MEF is the only provider in Thailand of safari-style, community-based elephant tourism. MEF offers the largest space of natural rangeland available for non-wild elephants. MEF focuses on natural living and well being for the elephants, as well as authentic tourist experience. New models of tourism are desperately needed for the nearly 5,000 captive elephants in Thailand who suffer in trekking camps.

In August 2015 MEF walked 3 elephants - across 100 miles of Thai jungle - from their captive, working camps, to their new home in protected forest. One of those walked home was Thong Kam, a 30-year old female elephant who was pregnant at the time of the walk and gave birth to a healthy boy named Sunti, which means peace in Thai. Thong Kam was allowed to give birth peacefully in the forest, just as she would have had she been wild her whole life. Sunti is just over a year old now and thriving in his forest home. Thong Kam’s first baby died tragically while she was held captive in an elephant camp. In many camps elephants are fed a very limited diet consisting mainly of corn, which weakens elephant’s immune systems. When a stomach virus swept the camp her calf wasn’t strong enough to fight it off. Elephants are pregnant for nearly 2 years and then spend another 4 years nursing so their bond to their young is one of the strongest of any mother, and losing a calf is shattering. After Thong Kam lost her baby, Thong Kam’s mahout Sinchai made it his mission to return her to her home where she can eat her entire natural diet, express all her natural behaviors, and is free from work. By collaborating with Mahouts Elephant Foundation, this dream became a reality.

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Sarah Blaine
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