After 2 years of GVI Thailand working with the community on bringing rescued elephants back to the forest and developing alternate livelihoods, the community of Huay Pakoot has registered as a community conservation group with the Mae Chaem District Office.
This legal registration as a community conservation group is a big step forward in allowing the village of Huay Pakoot to work towards their own goals of bringing elephants out of tourist camps and back into the forest where the elephants can live a more natural existence. The conservation group is made up of 10 local representatives on the board of directors and allows anyone from the local village to become a member of the group. The community’s conservations group will raise money from charitable donations, selling of products and other local ventures in order to cover the costs of bringing elephants and their mahouts back to live in the community forest, providing a salary for the mahouts as a means of making a living in a way that allows the elephants to live a more natural existence in the surrounding community forest. These elephants will be free from the harsh conditions and intense work environment of elephant tourist camps and have freedom to roam in the forest and forage for food. The conservation group will look after the health of the elephants and see that they have enough food and adequate medical attention and health checks. The group will oversee tourism in the village and allow tourists to visit the elephants in the forests to see them in their natural habitat and learn about Karen elephant keeping traditions. Elephant riding and circus tricks will not be allowed. This type of “community based tourism” is quickly becoming a popular catch phrase in Thailand as more and more traditional communities are finding ways to bring income and tourism into their communities while still maintaining and respecting their unique culture and tradition.
The legal formation for Huay Pakoot’s community conservation group is a great move towards allowing the community to take responsibility for the work in increasing their elephant herds living a natural life in the forests and decreasing the elephants and mahouts forced to rely on area tourist camps. The conservation group puts the responsibility into the hands of the local people allowing GVI Thailand, volunteers and staff to continue to support these initiatives that span the realms of wildlife conservation, community development and community based tourism.
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