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Elephant Camps & Experiences in Asia

Elephants are a highlight for any visitor to Thailand and Southeast Asia. Elephants have always held a revered place in the local landscape and culture over many generations, but in recent years there has been justifiable concern for the welfare of the animals. This has been marked change by almost all camps away from circus-variety activities to more sanctuary and care environments, focusing more on effective animal welfare, tourist education and awareness, and providing respectful interaction. There are now more opportunities for travelers to encounter these impressive creatures in ethical and responsible ways. We can arrange Elephant experiences range from half-day, full-day, to overnight and multi-day excursions, as well as volunteering opportunities.

If elephant welfare is a concern, please refer to this welfare report to help you make informed decisions on which camp to visit. We are also happy to provide up-to-date feedback. Should you boycott or avoid visiting any of the camps listed here based simply on this report or because you've read about negative practices? Please understand there are very limited places for these elephants who cannot survive in the wild. For example, there are over 3,500 non-wild elephants in Thailand alone, and simply not enough wilderness in which they can be safely reintegrated and roam. In the long term, camps are moving towards more humane practices but calls for boycotts and bans will only do more harm than good. Elephants need to eat about 500 pounds of food per day and cost owners approximately $1,000 per month to house and feed. Without tourism, these elephants would have nowhere to go and no one to pay for their food, a situation similar for their mahouts (handlers) who often live at poverty level. Releasing captive elephants to the wild is formidable and at least in the near future, not realistic. Needs Improvementider that even camps where they allow neck riding that, at minimum, the animals are being cared for and fees you provide help them to survive and continue to be cared for. In an ideal world, all elephants would be free wild and there would be no need to rescue abandoned working and other elephants. Until that point is reached, camps need to provide and promote ethical work for those elephants that are physically capable, while providing a safe, healthy environment for those that are not. It is also by people visiting these camps who are witnesses and put pressure on operators to implement more humane practices.

For your visit, we can plan not only the perfect match for your elephant encounter, but organize private encounters, meeting with camp founders, and access that most travelers cannot experience on their own.

CAMP CARE CHART Bullhook Chains Habitat Medical SHOWS Riding Feeding Bathing Education GRADE
THAILAND
Ranthong No Yes Yes Yes No Neck Yes Yes Yes B
Chiang Dao Yes Yes Yes No Yes Seated Yes Yes No D
Thai Elephant Care Limited At night Yes Yes No No Yes Yes Yes A
Maesa Limited At night Yes Yes Yes Seated Yes Yes Yes C
Patara No At night Yes Yes No Neck No Yes Yes A
The Chang Yes At night Yes Yes No Neck Yes Yes Yes B
Elephant Nature Park No No No Yes No No Yes Yes Yes B
Baan Chang Yes At night Yes Yes No Neck Yes Yes Yes B
Elephant Life Experience Yes At night Yes No Yes Neck Yes Yes Yes C
Thai Elephant Home Limited At night Yes Yes No Neck No Yes Yes A
Thai Elep. Needs Improvementervation Ctr. Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Seated No No Yes C
Elephant Valley Limited At night Yes No No No No No Yes A
Ananatara Golden Triangle Yes Yes No Yes No Neck No Yes No B
Elephants World No At night Yes Yes No No Yes Yes Yes A
Elephant Haven (Sai Yoke) No At night Yes Yes No No Yes Yes Yes A
Four Seasons Tented Camp No At night Yes Yes No No No No Yes A
Elephant Hills                    
Phuket Elephant Sanctuary No At night Yes Yes No No No No Yes A
LAOS
MandaLao Limited At night Yes Yes No No Yes Yes Yes A
Elephant Village (Shangri-Lao) No At night Yes Yes No Neck Yes Yes Yes B
Elephant Needs Improvementervation Center No At night Yes Yes No No No No Yes A
CAMBODIA
Elephant Valley Project Limited At night Yes No No No No No Yes A
The Mondulkiri Project No At night Yes Yes No No Yes Yes Yes B
ANGKOR Elephant Rides Yes Yes No No Yes Seated Yes No No F
MYANMAR
Green Hill Valley Sanctuary No At night Yes Yes No No Yes Yes Yes A
Myaing Hay Wun (CLOSED) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Seated Yes No Yes D

Glossary & Definitions

Bullhook - a weapon used to beat and intimidate elephants

Chains - Elephants are chained to keep them from roaming

Habitat - Natural habitat provided

Medical - Adequate veterinary checkups and care provided

Shows - Circus type shows with elephants coerced to entertain tourists

Riding - Neck (bareback) or seated (with large, strapped platform)

Feeding - Direct feeding teaches elephants to beg for food

Bathing - Elephants naturally bath wildly, splashing and roughly

Education - Does the camp teach you about the care and oves of elephants?

Grade: A = Excellent, B = Satisfactory, C = Needs to improve, D/F = Unsatisfactory treatment

Best practices: Limit visitor numbers to minimize stress to the animals, eliminate abusive training or control methods like bullhooks, do bnot allow rides and performances of any kind. Visitors not to come into contact with the elephants unless the animals initiate it. Provide a natural setting to roam, and regular health and medical care.

 

 

Elephant Experiences in Thailand

For elephant encounters, Thailand provides a breadth of camps like no other destination in the world, with venues throughout the country for getting up close and personal. No matter what your opinion is on the correct way the animals should be handled or presented, the camps and other venues do provide food, shelter and care for elephants for which there would be no funding for without caring tourists.

Overall, the growing trend has been for humane and cooperative camps rather than circus-style activities or riding. Travelers may now even volunteer to care for animals at some camps involved in elephant Needs Improvementervation. Under Threat Thailand is a country that has long revered the elephant for its royal and religious significance – is home to some 4,000 of the fewer than 50,000 Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) still surviving. Compared to the relatively enduring population of African elephants (currently estimated to number about 500,000), the rapidly dwindling Asian population was a major cause of concern.

In 1975, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) banned the commercial trade in Asian elephants. Thailand ratified the convention in 1983, and has been subject to its provisions ever since. In 1986, the Asian elephant was added to the World Needs Improvementervation Union (IUCN) list of endangered species.

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1. Rantong Save & Rescue Elephant Center (Chiang Mai)

Overview

Founded with the primary purpose of rescuing mistreated and retired elephants by providing care and a possibility for a better life.

Key Information

  • 36 elephants (25 used for riding)

  • Approximately 80,000sq.m. (20 acres)

  • Open 5 years

  • Elephant Care Program bathing and preparing food, and learning elephant's language.

  • Elephant Riding sitting on elephant neck without seat for approximately 20 minutes

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Elephant shelters and elephant clinic

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Elephants roam freely in large field area

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Briefing and lunch area

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Elephant shelter

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Instructional elephant care program

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Elephants kept on short chain

Best Practices

  • No bull hooks

  • No elephant shows

  • No seated riding

  • No chains (while mahout is nearby)

  • Large area and natural environment

  • On-site vet and elephant clinic

  • Care center for disabled and elderly elephants

  • Elephants have free time in the afternoons. Usual progararem1s0.00-12.00 and 13.00-14.30

  • English-speaking volunteers explain elephant issues to guests

  • Quiet and not mass touristy

Needs Improvement

  • Observed the use of a wooden stick to hit an elephant

  • Elephant neck riding is available

  • Elephants are chained at night. Observed short length of chain, restricting movement

http://rantongelephant.com

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2. Chiang Dao Elephant Training Center

Overview

This elephant camp is located along the scenic Ping River where guests can experience trekking by elephant back through the nearby forest. The camp also offers elephant shows, feeding and bathing activities daily.

Key Information

  • 10 elephants

  • Large area of land by a forest and river

  • Founded in 1969

  • Located in Chiang Mai

Experiences Available

  • Elephant Show a 20-minuteshow demonstrating how elephants were used for logging including elephant painting.
  • Elephant Bathing guests observe as the mahouts bathe the elephants

  • Elephant Feeding guests have a chance to feed bananas to the elephants by

    hand before the show

  • Elephant Riding trek through nearby forests on wooden seating for 2 people strapped to elephant back

  • Bamboo Rafting ride a bamboo raft along the Ping River and observe the natural scenery

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Elephant feeding

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Observe elephants bathing in the morning

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Training show displaying the elephant’s ability

http://rantongelephant.com

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Selling bananas to feed elephants

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Use of chains and bull hooks

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Rafting experience along Ping River

Best Practices

  • Elephants have free time in the afternoons. Daily program 1s0.00-12.00only.

  • Large forest area and natural environment

Needs Improvement

  • Regular use of bull hooks

  • Elephant show with elephant painting

  • The show has no explanation or commentary so it may be difficult for guests to understand

  • Seated riding available

  • Mahouts can be seen kicking and pulling the elephant's ear during the show

  • Elephants carry heavy chains throughout the day and are chained at night

  • No on-site vet or elephant clinic

  • Mahouts have limited English ability

  • More suitable for mass tourists

www.chiangdaoelephantcamp.com

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3. Thai Elephant Care Center (Chiang Mai)

Overview

The Thai Elephant Care Center is a home for retired, elderly elephants. The elephants are over 60 years old and visitors can observe the elephants as they roam around th large area with their mahout.

Key Information

  • Certified

  • Founded in 1976

Elephant Experiences

  • Elephant Care learn how to prepare food and herbs to treat elephants or participate in bathing elephants

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Entrance to the care center

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Herbs for feeding elephants

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Walkway offers easy access to care center

http://rantongelephant.com

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Elephant with mahout

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Elephant cemetery

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Shelter for elephants

Best Practices

  • No chains (while mahout is near)by

  • Elephants have free time in the afternoons and are able to return to the nearby forest

  • Elephants are kept on a long chain at night, allowing freedom of movement

  • Large area with forests

  • On site and elephant clinic

  • Care center for disabled and elderly elephants

Needs Improvement

  • Use of bullhooks for safety purposes

www.thaielephantcarecenter.com

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4. Maesa Elephant Camp (Chiang Mai)

Overview

Maesa is home to the largest assembly of domesticated elephants in northern Thailand. Visitors can see the elephants working with mahouts and bathing in the river.

Key Information

  • 79 elephants

  • Large area of land separated for different activities: riding, training and care center

  • Founded in 1976

Experiences Available

  • Elephant Show demonstrating the skill of elephants three times daily

  • Elephant Riding trek through nearby forest area on wooden seating for 2 people strapped to elephant back

  • Mahout Experience-train as a mahout and learn basic techniques used to command elephants

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Seated riding experiences

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Large area of land

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Mother and baby

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Mahouts demonstrate elephants’ ability

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Feeding elephants

Best Practices

  • No chains (while mahout is near)by

  • Elephants have free time in the afternoons and are able to return to the nearby forest

  • Elephants are kept on a long chain at night, allowing freedom of movement

  • Large area with forests

  • Onsite and elephant clinic

  • Mahouts are friendlily and some are able to speak English

  • Popular with tourists, but private area is available

Needs Improvement

  • Use of bullhooks for safety purposes

  • Elephant show with elephant painting inting (in separate area)

  • Seated riding available (in separate area)

www.maesaelephantcamp.com

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5. Patara Elephant Farm

Overview

Patara Elephant Farm is a recovery and elephant reproduction facility that aims to provide a hand-son educational program to teach visitors about elephant care, including feeding and bathing.

Key Information

  • 55 elephants

  • Large area of land for Needs Improvementervation activities

  • Founded in 2001

  • Located in Chiang Mai

Experiences Available

  • Mahout and Elephant Care-training about elephant breeding and feeding

  • Elephant Riding non-seated-riding on elephant neck for about 1hour

  • Elephant Bathing Show guests observe as mahouts bathe the elephants

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Elephants line up for bathing show

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Visitors observe from viewing platform

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Elephant training demonstration

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Mahouts demonstrate non-hook training

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Elephants neck riding

Best Practices

  • No bull hooks

  • No chains

  • No elephant shows

  • No seated riding

  • Verbal commands are encouraged

  • Elephant breeding program

  • Elephants are released into the Needs Improvementervation area owned by Patara

  • Elephants have free time, not always entertaining tourists

  • Guests are educated before interacting with elephants

  • Comprehensive English language information

Needs Improvement

  • Elephants perform during bathing time

  • Elephant neck riding is available

www.pataraelephantfarm.com

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6. The Chang Chiang Mai

Overview

Managed by a veterinarian who is an expert in elephant care, The Chang is located close to forests where the elephants are able to roam freely.

Key Information

  • 4 elephants

  • Large forest area

  • Founded in 2016

Experiences Available

  • Observation guests can observe elephants in their natural environment while sipping cocktails on the observation deck

  • Elephant Riding non-seated-rides are offered

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Elephants kept within enclosure

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Observation terrace

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Elephant neck riding

 

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Selling bananas to feed elephants

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Use of chains and bull hooks

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Rafting experience along Ping River

Best Practices

  • Elephants have free time in the afternoons. Daily program 1s0.00-12.00only.

  • Large forest area and natural environment

Needs Improvement

  • Regular use of bull hooks

  • Elephant show with elephant painting

  • The show has no explanation or commentary so it may be difficult for guests to understand

  • Seated riding available

  • Mahouts can be seen kicking and pulling the elephant's ear during the show

  • Elephants carry heavy chains throughout the day and are chained at night

  • No on-site vet or elephant clinic

  • Mahouts have limited English ability

  • More suitable for mass tourists

www.chiangdaoelephantcamp.com

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7. Elephant Nature Park (Chiang Mai)

Overview

The aim of Elephant Nature Park is to provide a sanctuary and acts as a rescue and rehabilitation center for elephants, cats and dogs, where visitors can be educated about Needs Improvementervation issues and also where you can volunteer and visit to help. We have been involved in dozens of rescues which have created our thriving elephant herd. The park provides a natural environment for elephants, dogs, cats, buffaloes and many other animals under our care.

Volunteers and visitors contribute to the healing while learning about their lives past and present. Arrange a visit to all our projects in Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar.

Key Information

  • 37 elephants, and also cats and dogs
  • Volunteering opportunities
  • Save the Elephant Foundation was established to protect Asian Elephants and rehabilitate captive elephants

  • Founded in 1990s

Experiences Available

  • Observation - guests can observe as elephants roam freely in the enclosure
  • Elephant Bathing - guests observe as the mahouts bathe the elephants
  • Elephant Feeding - guests have a chance to feed the elephants by hand before the show

Elephants at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai

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Best Practices

  • No bullhooks
  • No chains
  • No elephant shows
  • No seated or neck riding
  • Elephants roam freely within a walled enclosure
  • The enclosure includes a forest area where elephants can go to rest
  • The camp is associated with the Save the Elephant Foundation

Needs Improvement

  • Popular with mass tourists

  • Walls around the perimeter can obstruct viewing

www.elephantnaturepark.org

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8. Baan Chang Elephant Park

Overview

Baanchang Elephant Park is dedicated to providing elephants with the highest quality-of-life possible.

We are AGAINST the practice of separating baby elephants from their mother. However, it is our policy to accept and provide care for orphaned baby elephants. Sadly, babies are often orphaned as the cruel result of commercial exploitation (such as a practice known as "elephant begging") and mistreatment. Fortunately, at present, all of the babies in our park have NOT been separated from their mother.

The location of our park was chosen to provide a natural habitat. We are also AGAINST the practice of elephant painting and the training of elephants to dance and to sit or stand on two legs. We Needs Improvementider these practices unnatural and abusive. Our goal is to teach visitors about the importance elephant preservation and proper eating, sleeping, bathing, and exercising methods. One method of providing exercise for our elephants and a learning experience for our visitors is to allow visitors, to a limited extent, to ride elephants "bareback." As you can imagine, caring for exploited and abused elephants is a continuous, difficult, and costly process.

To date, Baanchang Elephant Park has provided a home and a purpose for domesticated elephant with the generous support of visitors who take advantage of the once-in-a lifetime opportunity for an elephant Training. Because of our continued success, concerned people all over the world care about the future of Thailand’s elephants. It is our ongoing goal makes sure that future is a bright one.

We appreciate feedback from persons who have visited our park. Feedback allows us to educate persons who are seeking to learn about elephant care and respond to issues that are important to our visitors. We encourage visitors to spend as much time at the park as possible. This allows the visitor to see the complexities of caring for elephants and to learn acceptable methods of treatment. Needs Improvementtructive feedback also allows us to re-evaluate and improve our treatment methods. Improving the quality-of-life for elephants is a continuous and ongoing process.

We are a managed by private owner in all ways. All funds are from visitors : meaning we are funded exclusively by visitors and every cent we receive goes towards making our elephants lives as pleasant as possible and, of course, retiring and rescue new elephants.

Key Information

  • Non-profit organization that aims to protect and provide purpos
    domesticated elephants
  • Professional English-peaking mahouts

Experiences

  • Elephant Feeding feed elephants with banana and sugar cane
  • Elephant Bathing bathe and brush the elephants
  • Elephant Riding non-seated elephant ride and learn basic commands
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Best Practices

  • No elephant shows
  • No seated riding
  • No chains (while mahout is nearby)
  • Large area and natural environment
  • Observe process of making paper from elephant dung
  • Non-profit organization. All profits go back to supporting the elephants.

Needs Improvement

  • Use of bullhooks to control elephants
  • Elephant neck riding is available
  • Elephants are chained at night.

www.baanchangelephantpark.com

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9. Elephant Life Experience

Overview

Offering personal and private experiences, E.L.E. allows guests to develop a close
relationship with the elephants. Elephant  Life Experience ( E.L.E.) “EXPERIENCE being the prominent feature. The guest will have the special opportunity to build a closeness to an individual elephant. Not being part of a large crowd will enable the visitor to spend as much time as they wish experiencing elephant life together..This will build a rapport with the elephant in their natural  environment far  removed from  the usual  organized  tours  of Elephant  camps. We offer the visitor the freedom, flexibility and time needed to get closer to nature.

Key Information

  • Private experience for guests
  • Located in Chiang Mai

Experiences Available

  • Elephant Painting
  • Elephant Bathing observe elephants bathing and have a chance to participate
  • Elephant Feeding learn how and what to feed elephants
  • Elephant Riding learn basic commands and ride by elephant back for about 30
    minutes

     

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Best Practices

  • Smaller, far more intimate camp and experiences
  • Photographer provided by camp
  • No seated riding
  • No chains (while mahout is nearby)
  • Large area and natural environment along river
  • Only offer private experiences. Very few tourists.

Needs Improvement

  • Private programs are more expensive
  • Use of bullhooks to command elephants
  • Elephants are trained to paint
  • Elephant neck riding is available
  • Elephants are chained at night.

www.elelife.com

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10. Thai Elephant Home (Chiang Mai)

Overview

Thai Elephant Home was founded by Nayok Satien and is managed by Wanachart Buraphakiat, nickname Joe. Both Satien and Joe grew up around elephants and together shared the desire to create a safe caring environment for these majestic animals. Together they founded Thai Elephant Home in 2006 with 1 elephant. Now Thai Elephant Home has 20 elephants, 14 at the main camp and 6 at the nursery. Our elephants are ridden bareback with only one guest per elephant. Each elephant has its own individual mahout who cares for their elephant.

Eco-Tourism and Needs Improvementervation: Thai Elephant Home realizes the number of Asian elephants continues to decline as the population pressures on the elephants’ natural habitat continues to increase. Thai Elephant Home has an active breeding program to increase the size of our herd therein helping to preserve the Asian elephant for future generations. Knowing the elephants’ natural jungle habitat is fragile and continues to decrease, Thai Elephant Home maintains trekking trails into the jungle which allow guests to enjoy nature without leaving a heavy footprint. Thai Elephant Home also has an active land purchasing program aimed at maintaining and expanding the elephants’ natural habitat.

Our Mission

The Thai Elephant Home is devoted to the Needs Improvementervation and preservation of the endangered majestic Asian elephant. Rescued elephant are provided a safe, caring and ethical environment, while the nursery seeks to preserve Thailand’s baby elephants for future generations. The camp is committed to providing education coupled with hands experiences aimed at helping people understand the realities, challenges and opportunities the Asian elephant faces. In the process the Thai Elephant Home supports the local community through job creation, reforestation efforts and educational scholarships.

Our Objectives

• To provide a safe caring environment for rescued elephants.
• To increase the number of Asian elephants through our breeding program.
• To provide individuals with the opportunity to learn about elephants by either riding them or observing them in their natural habitat.
• To provide educational scholarships for disadvantaged Hill Tribe youth to obtain university degrees.
• To assist with reforestation efforts in the district.

Key Information

  • 16 elephants
  • Founded in 2006
  • Located in Chiang Mai

Experiences Available

  • Mahout Training train as a mahout and learn basic techniques used to
    command elephants
  • Elephant Bathing observe elephants bathing and have a chance to participate
  • Elephant Riding learn basic commands and ride by elephant back
  • Black Mud Spa Join the elephants in a spa treatment using black mud, rich in
    magnesium and calcium, it is great for both elephants and people.

     

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Best Practices

  • No elephant shows
  • No elephant painting
  • No seated riding
  • No chains (while mahout is nearby)
  • Large area and natural environment
  • Unique Black Mud Spa

Needs Improvement

  • Use of bullhooks to command elephants
  • Elephant neck riding is available
  • Elephants are chained at night

www.thaielephanthome.com

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11. Thai Elephant Needs Improvementervation Center (Lampang)

Overview

The Thai Elephant Needs Improvementervation Center (TECC), founded in 1993 under Royal Patronage, cares for more than 50 Asian elephants in a beautiful forest conveniently located near the famous city of Chiang Mai. Beyond being an exciting tourist experience, the TECC is also known for its pioneering work in Needs Improvementervation and science. The TECC also proudly houses six of HM King Bhumibol's ten white elephants in the Royal Elephant Stables. As Thailand's only government-owned elephant camp, the TECC promotes affordability and accessibility. The admission price is only 200 baht for adults ) and 100 baht for children. Being often visited by Thai families and schoolchildren, the TECC's foreign guests never feel caught on the tourist trail. Guidebooks Needs Improvementistently praise the TECC for its relaxed, non-commercial atmosphere. The TECC offers many enjoyable Activities. Day trip "musts" include watching elephant bathing, the elephant show and a visit to see our baby elephants. Most guests take an elephant-back ride and tour our hospital. Overnight activities include our popular Homestay program and trekking in the forest.

Key Information

  • 100+ elephants
  • Approximately 550,000 sq.m. (136 acres)
  • Operated by the Forest Industry Organization, a government enterprise
  • Houses the National Elephant Institute of Thailand, a center of learning for
    specialists
  • Founded in 1993

Experiences Available

  • Elephant Show a 40-minute show demonstrating logging techniques, painting
    and making music. Daily at 10.00, 11.00 and 13:30.
  • Elephant Riding Wooden seating for 2 people strapped to elephant back. Rides
    range from 10 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Mahout Training School train as a mahout and learn basic techniques used to
    command elephants

     

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Best Practices

  • Large area and natural environment
  • Onsite vet and elephant hospital, which is used to treat elephants nationwide
  • Care center for disabled and elderly elephants
  • Elephants have free time in the afternoons and are able to return to the nearby
    forest
  • Elephants are kept on a long chain at night (20 meters), allowing freedom of
    movement
  • Exhibition building with posters, displays and video presentation about the
    importance of elephants in Thai history and culture
  • Guests can also observe the Dung Paper Factory

Needs Improvement

  • Use of bullhooks for safety purposes
  • Elephant show with elephant painting
  • Seated riding available
  • Some elephants carry chains throughout the day
  • Target is more mainstream
  • Relatively far from Chiang Mai

     

www.thailandelephant.org

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12. Elephant Valley (Chiang Rai)

Overview

One of the key motivations for bringing our Cambodian model to Thailand and developing this sanctuary for elephants is to set an example of how to look after and treat elephants to other small camp owners. From the organic elephant food, the cheap and affordable fencing to the way we handle our elephants and work with our staff is all orientated at putting the elephants best interests first but in a way that is easily copied. Our hope is that by helping to lead the way in Elephant Tourism other elephants can benefit.

Key to this is an ethos that is driven by allowing the elephants to take the lead in their daily activities and therefore to lead a more natural life. Working towards giving the elephants back their independence, natural behavior and dignity is not easy and depends on the support and co-operation of our visitors.

Our goal is to simply let the elephants just be elephants in a stress free natural habitat. Finding out how to actually achieve this has played a major part in how we do what we do at both of our elephant sanctuaries. The process has been a real journey, but this is how we arrived at developing our elephants’ routine, treatment and the program with which our volunteers and visitors interact with elephants in a responsible way, down to a fine art.

From a visitor’s point of view this implies that putting the elephants first also means that we don’t do many of the activities that you can find elsewhere  (swimming, riding, cuddling and kissing elephants) and in turn we feel that this difference has come to define why we are an actual sanctuary for captive elephants. An elephant is after all, a wild animal, and should be treated as such in every respect.

Just because a tourism company has the words “project”, “sanctuary”, or “community” does not necessarily mean they are actually doing any good for the elephants, forest, or local people. However here at the EVT we Needs Improvementider ourselves the real advocates for the Asian elephant in everything we do as we work hard to lead by example in setting up locations that show people openly how to look after elephants and invest in their future.

Children feeding elephant at Nature Valley Elephant Camp, Thailand

Key Information

  • Six resident elephants
  • 160,000 sq.m. (40 acres)
  • Work with Wildlife Needs Improvementervation Society (WCS) in protection of forests and
    wildlife
  • Managed by Elephant Livelihood Initiative Environment (ELIE), an NGO founded
    in Cambodia
  • Founded in 2016

Experiences Available

  • Observation guests can observe the elephants as they walk, eat and play in the
    area. The elephants are encouraged to behave naturally, so there are no shows,
    riding or other unnatural activities.

     

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Best Practices

  • No elephant shows
  • No seated riding
  • Verbal commands are encouraged
  • Elephants roam freely throughout the day (while mahout is nearby)
  • Purpose to re-introduce elephants into the wild
  • The host is well-versed in elephant welfare issues and can discuss in-depth about
    elephant behavior
  • Large area and natural environment
  • Quiet and not mass tourist-y

Needs Improvement

  • Use of bullhooks for safety purposes
  • Elephants are chained at night

www.elephantvalleys.com

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13. Anantara Resort Golden Triangle (Chiang Rai)

Overview

Fully funded by Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas, the camp was established as a
traditional mahout village and works to provide employment and a comfortable
lifestyle for elephants and their mahout families. Learn, play and connect with elephants in their natural environment, enriched by expert insights. Setting a benchmark for welfare, their award-winning Dara Elephant Camp offers animal encounters and tours, some inclusive of resort fees.

Key Information

  • 25 elephants
  • Associated with the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, which aims to
    protect Asian elephants and supports mahout communities
  • Founded in 2003
  • Located in Chiang Rai

Experiences Available

  • Elephant Riding non-seated riding to nearby river and experience bathing with
    elephants.

Elephants feeding at Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp and Resort

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Best Practices

  • No seated riding
  • Large area and natural environment
  • Associated with the Golden Triangle
  • Support for mahout families

Needs Improvement

  • Expensive compared to non-resort camps
  • Excessive use of bullhooks
  • Elephants are chained
  • Mahouts act aggressively with elephants
  • Bathing experience where guests are seated on the elephants
  • Limited information about how to behave with the elephant
  • Limited explanation in English

www.anantara.com/en/golden-triangle-chiang-rai

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14. Elephants World (Kachanaburi)

Overview

Elephants World is a self-supporting Environmental Needs Improvemen/Intervation Organization that cares for domestic elephants, situated just outside the town of Kanchanaburi, Thailand. Elephants World cares for the daily needs of over 30 elephants and staff by offering Eco-travelers the experience of an up-close and personal encounters. Our visitor programs range from a single-day visit to the Mahout Experience program of a week or more.

The Elephants World Mission is to provide the best possible care for our elephants, staff and visitors. We welcome travelers here at home and right across the world.  We strive to make every moment spent with us educational, enjoyable and rewarding in meaningful ways, understanding our visitors love elephants and wish to play a part, as we do, in their Needs Improvementervation for future generations.

Key Information

  • 26 elephants
  • Approximately 260,000 sq.m. of land (64 acres)
  • Founded in 2008
  • Located in Kanchanaburi

Experiences Available

  • FD Program feed the elephant, watch them play, prepare their food language
    and help them bathe
  • Overnight Program Not suitable for luxury guests

     

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Best Practices

  • Location close to Bangkok
  • No elephant shows
  • Non-profit organization
  • No riding (neither neck or seated)
  • Very large area and natural environment
  • 2 on-site vets and elephant clinic with several volunteer
  • Care center for disabled, sick and elderly elephants
  • Elephants have free time in the afternoons
  • Educational experiences
  • Beautiful location on the river
  • English, French, Spanish (and occasionally other languages) speaking
    volunteers explain elephant issues to guests

Needs Improvement

  • Very basic camp with limited facilities
  • Elephants are chained at night or when males in musth (heat)

www.elephantsworld.org

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15. Elephant Haven (Kachanaburi)

Overview

Sai Yok Elephant Camp is now known as Elephant Haven Thailand. The owners and families have completely stopped taking part of activities that distress their elephants, such as elephant shows and riding. The saddles have been taken away, foreever.

Our group of fortunate elephants are now enjoying their freedom. They are roaming free in the natural habitat, walking into the green forests, having a river bath and rolling in the mud pit, a favorite. All of them used to work for their entire lives and now we take off their chains and support them to live the rest of their lives peacefully. Your support of our efforts is critical and appreciated.

Key Information

  • 7 elephants
  • Approximately 200,000 sq.m. of land
  • Founded in 2016

Experiences Available

  • Therapeutic Trek - includes feed of elephants, watch them bathe,
    walk with them (one-hour trek) and feed them again. Lunch is served after at the
    scenic viewpoint restaurant.

     

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Best Practices

  • No elephant shows
  • Non-profit organization
  • No riding (neither neck or seated)
  • Very large area and natural environment
  • Educational experiences
  • Beautiful location on the river
  • High quality, new buildings & facilities
  • Elephants encouraged to move verbally
  • Part-owned by former owner of Thai Elephant Needs Improvementervation Center (CNX)

Needs Improvement

  • Mahouts carry bullhooks in bags, but they only use in emergency
  • Guests have to cross the small river in a boat with unstable jetty. Not suitable for
    anyone with mobility issues.

www.elephantnaturepark.org/elephant-haven-sai-yok-kanchanaburi/

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16. Four Season's Tented Camp (Chiang Rai)

Overview

The Four Season's Tented Camp is one of Asia's most exclusive resort retreats. Guest fees have now assisted in the adoption of more than ten elephants from the streets. Monthly sponsorship that includes all their food, veterinary and incidental bills (as well as the wages and benefits for their mahouts), these elephants can now live in a natural environment. Donations through similar sponsorships have helped baby elephants separated from their mothers before their natural weaning age, and elephants roaming city streets. These elephants are cared for on-site and can be seen during breakfast, or upon request, through a visit to the foundation camp. We are a member of the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF); as such, we offer our guests the opportunity to help rescue elephants from the streets of Thai cities. Donations made through GTAEF go directly to the care and welfare of these adopted elephants, with all administration and logistical support covered by Four Seasons Tented Camp at Golden Triangle.

The Foundation’s focus is on keeping wild elephants free and safe, and rescuing non-wild elephants from cruel conditions. The organization does not breed elephants or take them out of the wilderness. An additional goal is to look after the dedicated care-givers who are instrumental in helping rescued elephants heal and adjust to their new circumstances. The deep mutual attachment that develops between rehabilitated elephants and their mahouts is apparent to all who observe them. The Foundation works closely with mahouts and their families to help them build financial independence, supported by Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle.

The rehabilitated elephants now lead happy, comfortable lives: they are well looked after by their mahouts, spend ample time in the jungle and enjoy a bath every single day. They are also encouraged to spend their time the way they like. For instance, the Camp’s activities team is made up of social elephants who love to interact with people, while those who prefer solitude and quiet are left to snooze in the sun.

Key Information

  • The camp is part of the world-class resort.

Experiences Available

  • Trekking with elephants, observing bathing, dining with elephants
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Breakfast with elephants at Four Seasons Tented Camp, Chiang Rai, Thailand

Best Practices

  • Exclusive resort with limited number of travelers
  • Partnered with the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF) that rescues elephants from the streets of Thailand
  • Natural environment, elephants allowed freedom of unstructured living

Needs Improvement

  • Expensive, for resort guests only
  • Feeding allowed

www.fourseasons.com/goldentriangle/

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17. Elephant Hills (Khao Sok)

Overview

Elephant Hills operates a luxury tented jungle camp, combining the camp idea of African national parks with the Thai tropical forest environment. They offer 2-4 day nature soft adventure tours in and around the stunningly beautiful Khao Sok area. The Elephant Camp comprises luxury tailor-made tents and has successfully been operated since over 10 years.

The floating Rainforest Camp, one of the world’s only luxury floating tented camps, was opened in 2011 and is situated on the emerald green waters of Cheow Larn Lake. Both camps are situated in the Khao Sok National Park in Southern Thailand, approximately two hours apart from each other, close to popular beach destinations like Phuket, Khao Lak, Krabi and even Koh Samui. To facilitate travels to Elephant Hills Luxury Tented Camps, all transfers to and from Elephant Hills are included in the tour packages.

Key Information

  • Located in verdant Khao Sok National Park

Experiences Available

  • Jungle trekking with elephants

Elephants trekking in Khao Sok

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Best Practices

  • Incredible primitive jungles and lakes setting

Needs Improvement

  • Resort packages are more expensive than day camps

www.elephanthills.com

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18. Phuket Elephant Sanctuary

Overview

Founded by Swiss partners, Urs Fehr and Nathanael Schärer, Phuket Elephant Sanctuary is a home for retired working elephants, set on 30 acres of lush tropical jungle. Observe how elephants rehabilitate into forest life after decades of abuse, and experience how incredible the largest land mammal on earth is during a day at the sanctuary.

Key Information

  • Only camp among the Thai islands
  • Founder's mission is to provide care for rescue elephants

Experiences Available

  • 1/2 day programs include education on care of elephants, feeding, and river mud bathing

 

Herd in river at Phuket elephant sanctuary

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Best Practices

  • Founded by founder of Save Elephant Foundation.
  • Sanctuary visitors do not ride the elephants
  • Operates elephant clinic that treats elephants not just from the camp

Needs Improvement

  • Mass tourist location

www.phuketelephantsanctuary.org

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1. MandaLao (Luang Prabang)

Overview

An intimate non-riding experience. With no riding (neck or back) MandaLao offers a
mostly hands-off experience that allows the guests the chance to feed and walk the
elephants and to learn about the project to re-integrate former working elephants
into the Lao countryside.
Guests are collected from the hotel by the camp (with a camp guide) and
transferred in a private vehicle for 45 minutes to the camp.

Key Information

  • 7 elephants
  • Approximately 200,000 sq.m. of land
  • Founded in 2016

Experiences Available

  • Therapeutic Trek - includes feed of elephants, watch them bathe,
    walk with them (one-hour trek) and feed them again. Lunch is served after at the
    scenic viewpoint restaurant.

Mother and baby elephants at MandaLao eleohant camp in Luang Prabang, Laos

Best Practices

  • No elephant shows
  • Non-profit organization
  • No riding (neither neck or seated)
  • Very large area and natural environment
  • Educational experiences
  • Beautiful location on the river
  • High quality, new buildings & facilities
  • Elephants encouraged to move verbally
  • Part-owned by former owner of Thai Elephant Needs Improvementervation Center (CNX)

Needs Improvement

  • Mahouts carry bullhooks in bags though they only use in emergency
  • Guests have to cross the small river in a boat with unstable jetty. Not suitable for
    anyone with mobility issues.

www.mandalaotours.com

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2. Elephant Village & Shangri Lao (Luang Prabang)

Overview

Established in 2001, Elephant Village has been supporting indigenous people in remote areas by giving them employment through the creation of jobs under fair social circumstances.

Elephant Village ensures the support and the survival of elephants living in harmony with nature and the community.  They are kept away from abusive work and cared by professional veterinarians.

Elephant village ensures the preservation of a pristine river valley that otherwise would be destroyed by signing a multi-year lease agreement with the Lao government to establish a sustainable tourism project.

Key Information

  •  

Experiences Available

Best Practices

  • Close to Luang Prabang

  • Founded by elephant activist

Needs Improvement

  • Has not kept current with humane practices of animals

www.elephantvillage-laos.com

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1. Elephant Needs Improvementervation Center (Sayaboury)

Overview

The Elephant Needs Improvementervation Center, located in Sayaboury in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, acts to preserve and protect the Asian elephant, a species that is on its way to extinction. Created in 2011 by a team of experts, its program is set up around the wellbeing of the animal, the reproduction, vet care, and the schooling of mahouts.

The Center only welcomes elephants that have been working in the logging industry or mass tourism., but there are also some elephants that were born because of the Baby Bonus programme, which was set up by the Center. Our herd, today about 30 elephants big, can enjoy 530 hectares of protected forest. This large area is of great importance to the quality of life of the elephants, who Needs Improvementume more than 200kg of food each day.

Financed almost exclusively by ecotourism activities, the Center welcomes its visitors in a family environment where the wellbeing of the elephants stays the priority: they have no obligations, nor are they submitted to touristic rides. The Elephant Needs Improvementervation Center is the only active member in Laos of the Asian Captive Elephant Working Group, an international organisation that works on the welfare for elephants under human care.

Committed more generally to substantive work for the preservation of Asian elephants, the Center offers new working conditions to mahouts and new breeding opportunities for their elephants. Through several projects, it has the opportunity to inform the disadvantaged populations of the country, which traditionally live from the work of elephants.

Volunteers at Elephant Needs Improvementervation Center in Laos

Key Information

  • 30 Elephants
  • Remote, natural setting

Experiences Available

  • Volunteering
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Best Practices

  • Elephants kept in natural environment

  • Affordable volunteer programs

Needs Improvement

  • Remote location (120 kilometers from Luang Prabang - 2.5 hours drive)

    Basic, rustic accommodation

www.elephantNeeds Improvementervationcenter.com

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1. Elephant Valley Project (Mondulkiri)

Overview

Elphant Valley project is located about six hours drive from Phnom Penh. Its primary aim is to provide a sanctuary for elephants and offers a rare opportunity
to observe the animals natural behaviors.

Key Information

  • 10 elephants
  • 1,500 hectares (3,706 acres)
  • Work with Wildlife Needs Improvementervation Society (WCS) in protection of forests and
    wildlife
  • Managed by Elephant Livelihood Initiative Environment (ELIE), an NGO founded
    in Cambodia
  • Founded in 2006
  • Located in Mondulkiri, approximately 365 kilometers (6 hours) from Phnom Penh

Experiences Available

  • Observation guests can observe the elephants as they walk, eat and play in the
    area. The elephants are encouraged to behave naturally, so there are no shows,
    riding or other unnatural activities.

     

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Best Practices

  • No elephant shows
  • No seated riding
  • Verbal commands are encouraged
  • Elephants roam freely throughout the day (while mahout is nearby)
  • Purpose to re-introduce elephants into the wild
  • The host is well-versed in elephant welfare issues and can discuss in-depth about
    elephant behavior
  • Large area and natural environment
  • Quiet and not mass tourist-y

Needs Improvement

  • Remote location
  • Use of bullhooks for safety purposes
  • Elephants are chained at night

www.elephantvalleyproject.org

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2. Mondulkiri Elephant Project (Mondulkiri)

Overview

The Mondulkiri Project is managed by the Cambodia Elephant Rescue Organization, a registered Cambodian NGO

In October 2013 the Mondulkiri Project signed an agreement with Bunong indigenous elders from the Putang Village and the Orang Village.  This agreement stops logging in a large area of beautiful Mondulkiri forest near Sen Monorom.  The Mondulkiri Project borders the Keov Sema Protected Area so there is a lot of wildlife, from birds, to deer, wild pigs and buffalo. There are many beautiful waterfalls, swimming holes, valleys…..it is a very special place.

 Mr Tree, the Cambodian founder of the Mondulkiri Project, explains why the Mondulkiri Project is very important to him:

Protecting the forest from logging

The Mondulkiri Project is very important to me because i would really like to take care of the forest. It is difficult.

The local indigenous community needs to have an income.  To make money they are cutting down the forest to sell the timber to Vietnam or to clear the forest to make small farms.  As the population is growing, the need for more rice is also growing.  So more and more forest is being cut down.  I am really worried that soon all the forest in Mondulkiri Province will have been cut down.  The thought of losing this special jungle area makes me very sad.

My idea is to protect the forest so it can be used in ways that will still provide the communities with an income, without losing the jungle itself.  Providing elephant and jungle trekking experiences for tourists and developing traditional medicines from the jungle will earn income for the Bunong indigenous people.  We will also be saving habitats for elephants and other endangered wildlife.  

When I was young we had 2 elephants in our village, but these days there are very few elephants left.In the sanctuaries and villages close to Sen Monorom there only 41 elephants and they are growing old.   There are not many wild elephants left in Cambodia’s forests because of land clearing for timber and to make rubber plantations.

The Mondulkiri Project has started a new elephant sanctuary where there are 6 elephants who walk freely around the forest eating lots of bamboo, playing in the mud and swimming in the river.  There is no elephant riding by customers or staff.  

In the future we hope to start a natural breeding program to help with the long term survival of elephants in Cambodia.  The elephants are very well cared for as they are part of the vision for a better life for all of the communities.  Our elephant sanctuary is a place where elephants get to live long and happy lives.

Key Information

Experiences Available

  •  

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Best Practices

  • About 800 meters above sea level so the temperatures are a lot cooler than the rest of Cambodia and the air is fresher.

Needs Improvement

  •  

www.mondulkiriproject.org

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1. Elephant Valley Project (Myanmar)

Overview

Green Hill Valley sanctuary provides for the care and well-being of retired work elephants, some who are many decades old such as Shwe Moe May, who is 63 years of age.

Green Hill Valley was founded in 2011 by a family with a history of working with elephants in the Myanmar Timber Enterprise (MTE). The focus is primarily on providing care for elephants that are no longer fit to work. The family realized that Myanmar elephants working in timber camps were in precarious situation as logging slows down due to a variety of factors. Another reason for starting the GHV camp was the desire to educate and share information with both local residents and foreign visitors.

In 2012, the family managed to hire several disabled elephants from the MTE and a five-year-old male was added in July 2012. Thanks to the income provided by visitors, elephants at GHV can enjoy their full retirement and receive the veterinary care they require.

Key Information

  • 8 elephants

  • Founded in 2011

Experiences Available

  • Participating in daily care for elephants

  • Bath elephants
  • Hiking with animals

Elephant in river at Green Hills Elephant Camp, Kalaw, Myanmar

 

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Best Practices

  • Lush, jungle location
  • Small number of visitors
  • Reforestation projects

Needs Improvement

  • Bathing & Feeding

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For Further research on Elephant Needs Improvementervation

Elephant Care Manual for Mahouts and Camp Managers by Preecha Phuangkum, Richard C. Lair, and Taweepoke Angkawanith

Prepared by Patrick Morris, Indochina Travel & Adam O'Keefe, Abercrombie & Kent, Thailand

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