About Us

Founded on patience and peace and built through hard work and trust we are a foundation that works through groundbreaking collaborations with local communities fostering harmony and protecting Asian elephants and the communities that coexist with them.

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Our Mission: Mahouts Elephant Foundation is a UK registered charity dedicated to improving and protecting the lives of Asian elephants.

Our mission is to work toward a shift in attitude within tourism that facilitates the return of captive, working elephants to a protected forest habitat. MEF works on the ground to develop sustainable, welfare-focused tourist experiences supporting the needs and livelihoods of the indigenous mahouts, their families, and local communities, together with the needs of the elephants.

Blaine Family

Foundation History: Mahouts Elephant Foundation was founded by the Blaine family from England - Sarah, Felix, Joe and Natasha - who are impassioned about the natural world and all animals. In 2008 they travelled to Thailand and part of this trip was spent at a volunteer project which would change their lives forever.

They learned so much about Elephants working in the tourism industry in Thailand. The industry often unknowingly forces mahouts and their families into a desperate poverty trap that few can escape, meaning the families are impoverished and the welfare of the elephant is compromised.

After a decade of experiencing all sides to this complex story, Sarah and Felix Blaine teamed up with the people who know the issues intimately but are often left out of conversations, Karen indigenous mahouts. Together, they came up with community driven solutions that allow mahouts and elephants to thrive together.

Our Work: We work with a unique safari-style model of elephant tourism in direct partnership with mahouts, empowering them with the tools they require to support their families and their elephants in their home village, rather than selling their elephants or employing them to work near big cities. The pilot project works with the Karen hill tribe mahouts in northern Thailand, but it is designed for replication throughout elephant rangeland.

This multifaceted approach achieves many things: It cuts off the supply of elephants to the tourism industry, stops the demand of tourists by offering ethical alternatives, brings a sustainable source of income to impoverished communities, and provides science-based evidence showing good elephant welfare.

We complement our industry disrupting tourism model with a scientific research program collaborating with international experts to expand the current body of knowledge on Asian elephant behavior and biology.

We partner with progressive companies and industry stakeholders to leverage much needed funding for work with unparalleled impact and potential. If you are interested in learning more about the CSR and PR benefits of a Mahouts Elephant Foundation Partnership, contact sarah@mahouts.org

Why We Are Needed Logging was banned in Thailand in 1989 leaving 2,000 mahouts out of work and unable to generate the income required to take care of their elephants. The rise of commercial elephant tourism quickly followed and, with no regulations in place, the industry grew quickly and remains unchecked, with wealthy elephant camp owners profiting from exploiting elephants and mahouts.

Despite nearly 2 decades of activism and work, little has changed for elephants and mahouts in the industry. There is a dire need for novel, industry disrupting change.

Industry Facts

  • 75% of captive elephants live in poor welfare conditions
  • There are more captive elephants than wild elephants left in Thailand
  • The economic pressure from the industry, coupled with immense poverty in rural areas leads to the poaching of elephants form the wild to meet the tourism demand
  • With the loss of free-ranging elephants, their habitat is left for exploitation – the forest needs elephants as much as the elephants need forest.

Tourism in Southeast Asia is Huge Thailand receives 30 million tourists per year. Myanmar attracts one tenth of Thailand’s numbers, but visitors are rising. This enormous industry has the potential to be a powerful force for positive change in the conservation and welfare of elephants and empowerment of local people.

By visiting our projects on the ground, you are directly helping make a difference.

Thong Kam and Sunti

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Posted by Sarah Blaine