Project #6539

Alternative Livelihoods & Elephant Rescue Thailand

by Global Vision International Charitable Trust
The newly planted banana trees
The newly planted banana trees

Dear Supporters, 

Throughout the year we buy additional food for our elephants to assist with health checks and also as a little treat for them every couple of weeks! We currently buy our produce from markets in Chiang Mai, but we would like to become as self-sufficient as possible and grow our own banana trees to feed the elephants.

We are fortunate enough that our base is surrounded by unused land, so volunteers, interns and staff have spent the last few months clearing the overgrown weed filled area. After the area was cleared, they dug 16 deep holes for the young banana trees – not an easy feat in the middle of the dry season! With the help of villagers, we were able to source banana trees surrounding the village, which the interns then had to dig out, cut the top and replant to help with regrowth. 

The interns are now watering the banana trees daily to ensure they have enough water as the ground is very dry at this time of the year.

It is our hope that the village will be able to become self-sufficient with regards to being able to supply their elephants with a variety of foods. With the intern project, we hope to inspire the villagers to also grow other crops that they’d also be able to supply to the elephants, such as pumpkins or elephant grass. This would also help to achieve two of our project aims; ‘to increase and promote ethical elephant tourism and ‘to create a viable self-sustaining eco-tourism programme for the village.’

As we continue to return elephants to the forest we need to ensure there is enough food for them throughout all of the seasons and having villagers grow alternative crops will help us guarantee that they’ll have variety and plenty of foods. Having the villagers grow these crops will give them an alternative income than just growing rice and corn.

A huge thank you to everyone who helped to clear the area, dug the holes and replanted the trees!

With Gratitude, 
GVI Thailand

Hard at work in the Thai heat!
Hard at work in the Thai heat!
Thank you from us and the elephants!
Thank you from us and the elephants!

Dear Supporters,

On behalf of our partners, volunteers, staff and beautiful elephants we want to say a massive Thank You for your support in 2016! As 2016 draws to a close, we’d like to take this opportunity to reflect on our achievements and successes with you.

It’s been a very exciting year here at Chiang Mai as we have managed to bring back 3 elephants to the forest who were previously working in unethical tourist camps. Gureepo, our 8-year-old female, joined us in February and previously worked in a camp performing tricks for tourists. Dee Dee, our beautiful bull elephant, joined the GVI family in March and, like Gureepo, used to performed tricks for tourists. Gureepo and Dee Dee spend a lot of time together in the forest and having never previously lived in the forest before, are continuing to learn from the older elephants and their dedicated mahouts which food is the most delicious!

In October we also welcomed another male elephant to the GVI herd. Charlie is a 9-year-old male who previously spent his days painting in a camp near Chiang Mai, but can now spend his days in the forest where he should be! Charlie is grandson to Thong Dee, who has been with the GVI herd since its start in 2010.

Unfortunately, earlier in the year Dee Dee became unwell but thanks to the meticulous care of his mahout we were able to get him to the elephant hospital quickly to ensure he wasn’t seriously ill. Veterinary care for elephants is free for elephants in Thailand, however, it is very expensive to transport elephants to the hospital and it’s difficult for the owners and mahouts to find this money at such short notice. Thankfully, due to the GVI Trust donors, we are able to pay for this transport immediately and ensure that the GVI elephants can be taken to the hospital as soon as possible.

In November, staff and volunteers also took part in a GVI Trust Challenge! We spent 2 nights in the forest practising basic survival skills. Volunteers had a series of challenges, for example practising basic survival skills and making their own shelters and although it was very cold, everybody did a great job to raise money for our elephants!

It’s fantastic to see how your donations are able to help support more elephants to live in the forest where they belong and also how much of an impact this has on the elephants and their mahouts!

Thank you for your donations and for supporting these beautiful elephants and their mahouts in 201!

We wish you a happy and prosperous 2017.

With Gratitude,

GVI Thailand. 

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




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Organization Information

Global Vision International Charitable Trust

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

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