Animals
 Thailand
Project #6539

Alternative Livelihoods & Elephant Rescue Thailand

by Global Vision International Charitable Trust
Vetted
Welcome, Don and Charlie!
Welcome, Don and Charlie!

Dear Supporters, 

GVI Chiang Mai works with the local community of Huay Pakoot to help bring their captive elephants back to the forest. Asian elephants in Thailand are hugely affected by deforestation and habitat degradation meaning that there is very little land for elephants to be released back into the wild. GVI Chiang Mai is fortunate to partner with the community of Huay Pakoot who allows the elephants to live in a semi-wild environment in the forest in the surrounding area.

The majority of our elephants have been a part of the GVI herd for over 4 years now and we work very hard with the current elephant owners and mahouts to ensure that they understand why it’s imperative to their elephant’s well- being to allow them to live in their natural habitat.

Our dedication to ethical elephant tourism is also why GVI is approached by new owners to take their elephants from the tourist camps and return them to the forest.

At the beginning of October, we were approached by Don, nephew to our mahout Patti (Thong Dee’s mahout) who has been with the GVI project since it started in 2010. We were asked if it would be possible for their male elephant, Charlie, to join our GVI herd. Because of your donations, which already support 3 of our elephants, we are able to bring more elephants, like Charlie, back to the forest.

Introducing Charlie

Charlie is a beautiful 9-year-old male who was born in a camp in Northern Thailand and used to spend his days painting pictures for visiting tourists. Charlie is grandson to Thong Dee and has never lived in a forest before, having spent his whole life in the camp. His mahout, Don, is working very hard to help Charlie adjust to an environment he should be naturally suited to but has never experienced before. He is slowly being introduced to the forest and learning which foods are best for him and the most delicious! Previously, Charlie would have been fed by his mahout in the camp, so has never had the opportunity to explore the forest and feed for himself, something which is vital to an elephant’s well-being. Captive elephants rarely get the opportunity to choose who they want to socialize with, however once Charlie has adjusted to the forest and feels confident, he will join the other elephants and hopefully spend some time with his grandmother, Thong Dee!

Thank you so much for your support!

With Gratitude,
GVI Thailand

Charlie getting used to his new home
Charlie getting used to his new home
One-on-one lessons
One-on-one lessons

Dear Supporters, 

It’s integral to the success of the project that the villagers, particularly the mahouts, learn to speak English sufficiently to ensure they can communicate effectively with visitors coming to the village. We are constantly brainstorming new ways to interact and integrate with the community, whilst attempting to drive more English lessons that are engaging, yet productive.

The village of Huay Pakoot is an indigenous Karen Hill Tribe in Northern Thailand, renowned throughout the country for their knowledge of elephants. The language that is predominantly spoken within the village is Pakinyaw, although a lot of the younger generations do speak, read and write Thai after being taught this at school.

Typically, the tradition of being a mahout is a skill that has been passed down from generation to generation and knowledge that is only acquired through practice. As a result of these traditions, the majority of our mahouts left school around the age of 12, usually upon completing primary school, to help care for their families’ elephants in tourist camps; therefore cutting their education short.

As the GVI project has been running here for nearly six years, most of the mahouts have managed to absorb a fair amount of English vocabulary from volunteers, however, they do not usually feel confident enough to put this knowledge into practice.

Whilst we have successfully been running a bi-weekly English class with some of our older mahouts for the past few years, we have never managed to consistently get the younger mahouts to partake in these classes. Over the last month, we have trialed a new location for a new mahout English class, in the hope that the younger mahouts would feel more comfortable and under less pressure with fewer people attending.

The class has been working really well so far with three mahouts (Towie, Suwit, Root) regularly turning up for lessons twice a week. When new volunteers arrive on project, we have a 5-day lesson plan for them to learn Pakinyaw. We have also been doing this with the mahouts but in reverse, so they can understand the same basics that volunteers are being taught and this may encourage everyone to communicate during hikes. Ensuring that the mahouts can communicate effectively using English is vital for the future of the project.

Ensuring that the mahouts can communicate effectively using English is vital for the future of the project. 

Thank you for your support!

With Gratitude, 

GVI Thailand

Studying hard!
Studying hard!
Dee Dee
Dee Dee

Dear Supporters, 

The main goal, of this project, is to provide the village of Huay Pakoot with an alternative income to the current method of renting their elephants to tourist camps. One of the main incomes that GVI provides for this village is paying the elephant owners to keep their elephant in the surrounding forest. In March, we added two more elephants to its current herd in Huay Pakoot; bringing the total number of elephants up to 8.

The tourist industry in Thailand has put a strain on the elephant population of this country. It used to be the case that elephants were captured from the wild, often at a young age, and then trained to do tricks or to give rides. Although this practice may still happen in some areas, many elephant owners/camps obtain more elephants through their current elephants giving birth. These elephants born into captivity are very unlikely to ever see the wild. So the kind of camp/sanctuary these elephants are born into is the determining factor in whether they will have a decent life or not.

The Karen hill tribe village of Huay Pakoot owns around 60 elephants, the majority of which currently reside within tourist camps in Northern Thailand. Renting their elephants to these camps provides a good source of income for many families in the village. Although some of these camps don’t make these elephants perform tricks or undertake in saddle riding, it is the goal of GVI Chiang Mai to provide the best quality of life for the elephants as possible.

Our aims is to bring back as many elephants to the village as possible; making sure that the number of elephants in the surrounding forest of Huay Pakoot remains at a sustainable level. It is important that the number of elephants brought back to the village does not go over the carrying capacity of the surrounding forest. If more elephants, than the surrounding forest can support, are put into the forest then this will cause degradation of the local ecosystem. This would be bad for the elephants, the local biodiversity, as well as the villagers.

Our newest recruits

During the last few months, the team in Chiang Mai has been looking to increase the number of elephants here in the village (it can take a long time to negotiate terms). During the month of March, we were able to secure two more elephants; a female called Gureepoh and a male named Dee Dee. It’s great to see these elephants spend more time in the forest, where they should be. Without having to perform tricks or provide exhausting rides to tourists.

Gureepoh was placed in a heard with Khum Suk, Kha Moon, and Saja (3 older females), Lulu (a juvenile female) and Wan Mai (our baby male elephant). Gureepoh settled into the group pretty much instantly and is now able to walk in the forest and learn from the more experienced individuals on how to actually be an elephant. When Dee Dee first arrived he was kept more separated from the other elephants, this is because the mahouts wanted to make sure he was settled before introducing him; a male elephant can affect the dynamics of a herd more than a female joining the group. So safety first, especially when volunteers are in close proximity to these giants. Dee Dee, however, was extremely calm and was introduced to the others relatively soon after arriving. The current relationships between the elephants are stable and Dee Dee and Lulu seem to have become good friends!

We want to ensure that as many elephants as possible have the best, most natural, life they can. 

Thank you for your generous support, whch helps make this possible!

With Gratitude, 

GVI Chaing Mai

Gureepoh
Gureepoh

Links:

Stefan on his journey!
Stefan on his journey!

Dear Supporters, 

Recently we have been working a lot on our relationships with the village that our elephant project runs from because we work very closely with them and rely on them for a great number of things. 

The GVI interns decided to do something to give back and show our support!

Volunteers and interns who come to this project are encouraged to get involved with the community as much as possible. The interaction is also good for the villagers, helping them learn English as well as learning about different cultures from around the world.

One of our interns has taken becoming part of the culture to the next level. Stefan, who is spending 6 months in the village as a biodiversity intern, has really become part of the community since starting here. Part of the 6-month internship is to complete a group project together. This group of interns deciding to fundraise for spotlights for the school football pitch, as well as putting money towards the meditation school which is currently being built.

As part of Stefan’s contribution to the fundraising effort, he agreed to become a Buddhist Monk for a week. Practicing as a monk for a week is a common pursuit, with many Thai men doing this at least once in their lives. Along with our head mahout, Dee, Stefan underwent the induction ceremony to become a monk. Three other younger Thai men also joined Stefan and Dee in this process. Stefan’s homestay family also attended and offered to pay the donation needed to the monk/temple; indicating the string bond that Stefan has made within his host family. This was all after he had his hair, eyebrows, and beard completely shaved off!

During his week as a monk, Stefan followed the strict rules that monks abide by. He was unable to eat after midday, had to collect food donations while walking around the village barefoot, as well as several other rules which he had to follow. One of the toughest parts of his time as a monk was a 30km walk that he had to complete in order to reach a Buddha statue in another village. He completed this walk in crocs! Since this walk, he strongly advises everyone not to complete a long hike in crocs.

Stefan has truly attempted to get involved in the community as much as possible, the respect he already had around the village has increased even more. This is the first time that anyone within GVI has become a monk, but it is a testament to what a volunteer/intern can become part of while on the GVI Chiang Mai project. It’s definitely a case of the more effort one puts into their time here, the more they get out of their experience. 

The more time that GVI spends here in the village, the more that we become part of the large family that exists here. This strengthens our project and helps us in our pursuits to bring more elephants to the forest and create alternative livelihoods for locals. 

Thank you for your continued support. 

With Gratitude, 

GVI Chaing Mai

Links:

Elephant masks in English class
Elephant masks in English class

Dear Supporters, 

As well as caring for the elephants by keeping them living free in the forest, this project also aims to provide a sustainable, alternative livelihood to the mahouts and the community that we live in.

One of our main goals for GVI Chiang Mai is to empower the community to take over and run their own sustainable volunteer project, it is important that they have a good level of English. This will allow members of the community to communicate effectively with volunteers and tourists.

GVI staff and volunteers constantly teach at the local school, as well as run informal lessons in many homestays around the village; with the intention of providing, at least, a basic knowledge of English to the majority of the community.

Nicki, our community coordinator, has brought an increased enthusiasm into the teaching side of the project. With some extra organisation, we now have an extra class added to our teaching schedule- a kindergarten class to go along with grades 1-6 that we already teach English to at the school.

Being able to start English lessons with children at a younger age will aid them in the future, hopefully allowing them to be leaders in their community, with the sustainable tourism business increasing in their local area. It also allows the volunteers to get some great social time with the cutest kids in the village.

Our constant work within the community has already shown results, with many of our mahouts already being able to interact, in English, with the volunteers while hiking with the elephants. Many other villagers also enjoy testing out their English skills over dinner, or while walking around the village.

We are always looking to increase our work within the community, teaching being one of our priorities. With the consistent efforts and enthusiasm of staff and volunteers, we have no doubt that we will attain our aim of providing this village with the skills it needs to go from strength to strength in the future.

Thank you for your continued support.

With Gratitude,

The GVI Chiang Mai Team.

 

We love our time with the children!
We love our time with the children!

Links:

 

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Organization Information

Global Vision International Charitable Trust

Location: Exeter, Devon - United Kingdom
Website: http:/​/​www.gvi.org
Project Leader:
Kate Robey
Exeter, Devon United Kingdom

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