Walking with Elephants

     The WWE project community has existed deep in the mountains of northern Thailand for 400 years, coexisting with elephants. They have deep bonds with their elephant partners. Generations back they would leave with their elephant for short periods to earn money from logging contracts. The rest of the year the elephants would roam free through the vast forests surrounding the village. When logging was banned in 1989 they were left with no way to earn an income so nearly all 60 mahouts and elephants left to find work in Chiang Mai.

     Walking with Elephants is the pilot project located in a rural Karen Hill tribe village in Western Thailand. They have been in communication with the village for 4 years and began supporting 3 elephants in 2015 after walking with them through the jungle to return them to the village as documented in a CBBC documentary series. In November 2016 the herd grew to 4 with the birth of Sunti, who will have a life unique to captive elephants having been born in the forest and not forced to leave to work.

     These elephants spend every day roaming free, and their mahouts earn a sustainable income by bringing guests into the jungle to see them, as well as facilitating our research program into the elephants behavioural and social ecology in their natural habitat. This project has been accepting guests for 2 years now and is starting to become fully self-sustaining and in turn gives economic, educational and empowerment benefits to the mahouts involved. Tourism visits to the project includes 4 and 5-day wild camping trips, and a dedicated guesthouse for visitors, which provides a higher standard of accommodation. The project now offers a 6-day volunteer program developed in partnership with the village leadership and, in the last six months, a glamping programme which is garnering a lot of interest from the tourism industry.

WWE project needs:

Village Elder Foraging for Native Vegetables

The project is on its way to becoming self-sustaining, however to support more elephants and mahouts, it requires:

  • A full-time local translator and tourism coordinator for the site - Our Thai guide has an incredible depth of knowledge about the community. The team would love to be able to hire her full time. To do this we need to raise an additional £8,500 per annum.
  • WWE Elephant Learning Center - A learning center where we can archive the community knowledge. We need to raise approx. £8,000 capital investment to build the center.
  • Salaries to bring on more local mahouts and their elephants – We are reaching the point of self-sustaining for the elephants we currently support and are looking to help secure the futures of more. Each additional elephant requires a financial investment of approx. £5,000 per annum
  • Additional Infrastructure - With increased volume of guests and researchers the project needs a guesthouse, meeting house, storage sheds, washing machine and more. Building more infrastructure wouldd cost £10,000.

How you can help the community at Walking with Elephants Project:

As a charity, we depend on the generosity of our supporters to meet the growing needs our communities face, every little bit helps us to reach out goals and support more mahouts and elephants.

When you become a sponsor, you will receive a welcome letter signed by Mahouts Elephant Foundation Co-Founder Sarah Blaine, a photograph of your chosen elephant taken by a professional wildlife photographer and a sponsor certificate. You will also receive exclusive quarterly sponsor updates on your chosen elephant and hold the knowledge that you have made a difference for your sponsored elephant.

By sponsoring one or more of our elephants, you will be contributing to providing for their daily needs - All funds go towards keeping the elephants in the forest and we cannot do this without your help. Each elephant requires a mahout and they need a salary each month – their role is demanding and requires extended periods out in the forest. We pay decent wages to ensure they are able to take care of their families.

Fundraise For Us! - Interested in hosting an event? Get in touch with sarah@mahouts.org or if you are a UK resident you can create your own fundraiser for us on Justgiving

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To book a trip please email: sarah@mahouts.org or call: 07787 565302