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Founder, Sarah Blaine & Family
Rescued elephants

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
Deliberately deformed
Typical tourist riding camp
Chained at a temple
Enjoying their natural habitat
OATOKE visiting MEF
Mahout overseeing his elephants
Elephant-friendly tourism
Severe restriction

For further information on the work of Mahouts Elephant Foundation please visit

 © Mahouts Elephant Foundation, Olsen Animal Trust  All rights reserved
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