Founder, Sarah Blaine & Family
Mahouts Elephant Foundation (MEF), founded by Sarah Blaine, was set up in 2015 after she, her husband Felix and their two young children, Joe & Natasha, witnessed the horrors of the elephant riding business.
They started by rescuing two elephants from a riding camp in Chiang Mai after agreeing to compensate the mahouts (elephant owners) for their loss of income. Meanwhile they set about creating a new tourism model based on walking with, and observing, elephants in, their natural habitat – as opposed to riding them. To date, MEF has rescued eight elephants from the tourism business in Thailand, all of whom are now living a much-improved life in the forests and are being given the respect and care they deserve. The mahouts are also happy, as they have experienced no loss of income and are pleased to be living side by side with their elephants once again.
MEF is dedicated to improving and protecting the lives of Asian elephants in Thailand by influencing a shift in attitude within tourism that facilitates the return of captive, working elephants to protected forest habitats.
They aim to continue to develop sustainable, welfare-focused tourist experiences supporting the needs of indigenous mahouts, families and local communities, alongside the needs of the elephants. They currently work with Karen Hill tribe mahouts in northern Thailand, but the project is designed to be replicated throughout elephant rangeland. They also have a scientific research programme to understand Asian elephant behaviour and biology.
What Mahouts Elephant Foundation does
Develop community led, sustainable, welfare-focused tourist experiences
Work towards ending elephant back riding in Thailand
Conduct scientific research which contributes to the understanding of Asian elephant behaviour
How Olsen Animal Trust helps
Capex funding for essential infrastructure works and transport requirements
Contribution to overall running costs of the project
Assisted with improving the welfare of domestic community animals
Project Images - hover over for details
A life in chains
Reality of life in chains in a tourist riding camp.
Injured and deliberately deformed elephants for the safety of selfish tourism.
Typical tourist riding camp
Elephants endure daily back-breaking work and constant cruel training methods to ensure safety of the riders.
Chained at a temple
MEF not only enable elephants to retire from the riding industry but also those used for other cultural exhibits. Featured here is a chained temple elephant who is now living back in the forest where he belongs thanks to MEF.
Enjoying their natural habitat
Rescued elephants enjoying their natural habitat.
OATOKE visiting MEF
OATOKE with MEF team and friends. Featured in centre is Dionne from Animals Asia, a likeminded elephant project in Vietnam, also supported by OAT. We love collaboration and felt bringing these two project leaders together would be mutually beneficial. Bottom right is Sarah, Founder of MEF.
Mahout overseeing his elephants
Under the new MEF model Mahouts (elephant owners) are able to retire their elephants from riding camps and bringing them back to their community forests. Their income is now generated by ethical elephant viewing as opposed to rental fees earned from riding camps.
Under the MEF model tourists enjoy watching elephants in their natural habitat.
Severely restricted elephant - inhumanly controlled for the sake of human entertainment.
For further information on the work of Mahouts Elephant Foundation please visit www.mahouts.org