As our organisation name suggests, we concentrate our conservation efforts in Asia. Although we do work on issues faced by wild elephant populations such as human-elephant conflict and anti-poaching, the majority of our efforts are concentrated on the captive elephant populations, which again brings us back to Asia.

More placid than the African elephant, the Asian elephant has for centuries been captured and tamed from the wild. The Asian elephant is of cultural and historical significance across its range, however the once revered species, is under the threat of extinction.

The Asian elephant is often the forgotten cousin, frequently overshadowed by the continuing onslaught of African elephants for their coveted ivory. Currently there are at least ten African elephants to every Asian elephant. Whilst there are some populations of African elephant under threat, the overall global trend is upwards; under the IUCN red data list, their status is vulnerable.

Meanwhile with between 30,000 - 40,000 estimated in the wild, the trend for Asian elephant is declining and as such are classified as endangered.

Yes we do! We are always on the look out for committed, passionate people that have the skillset to move our organisation forward.

If you have experience in fundraising, marketing, webmastering, project management and administration, conservation, veterinary care, please contact us here giving a brief overview of your experiences and expectations for an internship. [Contact us HERE]

We have several eco-tourism volunteer opportunities available through the Elephant Conservation Center; please visit http://www.elephantconservationcenter.com/ for further information. There are a number of other sanctuaries that care for captive elephants and offer volunteer opportunities, invariably these can be found searching online. There are also many adventure companies offering experiences to volunteer abroad, if you are considering applying for any such role, please thoroughly research it first. Seek information as to how much of your money will assist the project.

For obviously reasons, we do not expect you to become elephant experts overnight, however here are a few simple and easy pointers to look for in relation to an elephant's health and well-being.

  • Constant motion, the elephants ears will be flapping, tail or trunk swinging.
  • The mouth, tongue and inside of the trunk is rosy pink in colour.
  • The tip of the elephant's trunk is moist as well as moisture present at the base of the nails.
  • The elephant is not too thin with sunken abdomen or prominent ribs.
  • No obvious fresh injuries particularly about the head.
  • No stereotypic behavior such as rhythmical swaying of the head from side to side

Other things to be mindful of are - the Asian elephant needs plenty of shade, access to drinking water and natural fodder, as well as sufficient periods of rest.

If you have concerns about the health and wellbeing of the elephants at a sanctuary you have chosen to visit, speak politely with the management about your concerns. If not reassured with their response, make the ethical choice to take your business elsewhere.

Remember travel forums are a powerful way for tourists to make a difference to the conditions in which elephants are kept in sanctuaries. By posting objective reviews of both positive and negative experiences allows other tourists to make informed decisions on the places they choose to visit during their trip.

With logging operations now banned in several Asian countries many captive elephants and their mahouts face unemployment. Whilst some take their elephants onto the streets in large cities and forced to beg, others are pushed back into poverty, leaving the elephants vulnerable to abandonment or mistreatment, as they become a financial burden.

Sustainable, responsible tourism that reinvests in conservation and local communities can make a positive impact to wellbeing of elephants that would otherwise be unemployed. Opportunities such as trekking and sanctuaries, when managed effectively, can provide income-generating alternatives to logging that are less arduous on the elephants.

This said, if you are considering visiting an elephant sanctuary or other elephant related activities, please do research it thoroughly first. While a number of sanctuaries are definitely improving the wellbeing of captive Asian elephants, the welfare status of elephants in many, unfortunately remains inadequate.

The first question you should ask yourself is whether your preference is to see wild or captive elephants. To view wild elephants is usually a little more involved, however there are a great many options throughout their range, particularly in the national parks of Thailand and India, as well as in Borneo and Sri Lanka.

There are also a great number of other sanctuaries in the region that care for captive elephants and offer opportunity to visit them. ElefantAsia works in partnership with the Elephant Conservation Center based in Sayaboury in northern Laos. Set in 106 hectares of natural forest, the eco-tourism initiative works to bring visitors to the home of the elephants rather than take elephants into urbanised settings. The Center supports the conservation of the Asian elephant across Laos, as well as the sustaining their residing herd, many of which have been rescued from logging operations.

There are, of course, other sanctuaries in the region that care for captive elephants. While a number are definitely improving the wellbeing of captive Asian elephants, the welfare status of elephants in many, unfortunately remains inadequate. If you are considering visiting an elephant sanctuary, please do research it thoroughly first. For further guidance, visit our "Read before you ride" leaflet here.

The ankus or hook first sight appears to be a very cruel instrument, though when used properly it is simply a guiding tool which leaves no noticeable trace of use. If you see wounds you know the hook is being misused and the elephant is being abused. Express your concern by pointing these marks out to the mahout and, even better, management.

Examine the enclosures where the elephants are kept. Is there grass nearby for them? Elephants must spend between 14-18 hours each day eating! Gathering and supplying fodder to elephants should be an obvious activity at any elephant camp. If you don’t see any food around, ask where it is and when it’s coming.

It’s fun to feed your elephant bananas, pineapples, and other delicacies, but make sure you also see staple foods like grasses and bamboo.

Elephants quickly suffer when exposed to too much sun, particularly during the hottest months of March – July. Drinking up to 100 litres of water daily, elephants must have access to fresh, clean water at all times and good shade over their heads.

Just like humans, elephant suffer if kept with their own waste. Dung should be regularly collected and urine should be washed away. Cleanliness is absolutely vital in preventing the spread of disease. If the enclosure is dirty, show your dissatisfaction to the staff.

A healthy elephant is in constant motion, flapping its ears to dissipate body heat and swinging its tail to drive off flies and insects. Being very still can be an indicator of ill health.

While ear flapping and tail swinging are healthy, elephants that have been chained or hobbled for too long repeatedly swing their heads in a very exaggerated manner. Such stereotypical behaviour can be an indicator of stress and boredom. Head swinging can be an indicator of poor care.

 

The dung of a healthy elephant is always several round, solid lumps. Liquid faeces are a sure sign that the elephant is ill and shouldn’t be working. Inform the mahout and camp staff immediately.

No, for several reasons. 

• If done correctly, riding an elephant is no more cruel than horse riding. Giving rides is far less dangerous to elephants than logging, the only alternate work.

• Elephants, like people, suffer without a minimum amount of daily exercise. Gentle walks are actually beneficial for their physical and mental health.

• The income earned from elephant trekking supports at least two mahouts and their families, an essential source of income in Laos.

Isn’t giving rides to tourists cruel and unnatural for elephants?  No, for several reasons. • If done correctly, riding an elephant is no more cruel than horse riding. Giving rides is far less dangerous to elephants than logging, the only alternate work.• Elephants, like people, suffer without a minimum amount of daily exercise. Gentle walks are actually beneficial for their physical and mental health.• The income earned from elephant trekking supports at least two mahouts and their families, an essential source of income in Laos. 
How many people can an elephant safely carry in its saddle?A fully grown elephant can carry up to 150kg (330 pounds) on its back. So two normal adults are a suitable load for an elephant. If you see heavier loads, complain to management.
How many hours should an elephant work daily?Work time should vary according to the temperature and the terrain.  Generally an elephant should not walk at a brisk pace for more than four hours a day. Longer periods will leave the elephant too little time to eat, drink and rest. If you think your elephant is being overworked, show your concern by questioning your tour guide.Can I walk up to any elephant and say hello?No! Elephant experts will never approach an unknown elephant, even a young one, without first asking permission from the mahout. All elephants should be approached cautiously. Elephants dislike loud, sudden noises and quick movements, especially from behind. Have the mahout at your side at all times and carefully follow his instructions.
Performing tricksCute, maybe. Cruel, definitely. Extreme behaviors such as headstands and hind leg walks are unkind and unnatural. You can be sure that such elephants were trained using force and pain. Beyond physical damage, such training causes elephants to hate and be afraid of people. Do not support such activities.

A fully grown elephant can carry up to 150kg (330 pounds) on its back. So two normal adults are a suitable load for an elephant. If you see heavier loads, complain to management.

Work time should vary according to the temperature and the terrain.  Generally an elephant should not walk at a brisk pace for more than four hours a day. Longer periods will leave the elephant too little time to eat, drink and rest. If you think your elephant is being overworked, show your concern by questioning your tour guide.

No! Elephant experts will never approach an unknown elephant, even a young one, without first asking permission from the mahout. All elephants should be approached cautiously. Elephants dislike loud, sudden noises and quick movements, especially from behind. Have the mahout at your side at all times and carefully follow his instructions.

Cute, maybe. Cruel, definitely. Extreme behaviors such as headstands and hind leg walks are unkind and unnatural. You can be sure that such elephants were trained using force and pain. Beyond physical damage, such training causes elephants to hate and be afraid of people. Do not support such activities.