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Thai resort launches elephant rescue initiative

A luxury resort deep in a Thai national park is hoping to do its bit for the country’s elephants. Carolynne Dear caught up with elephant conservation expert Dr Alongkot Chukaew to find out more

Thai resort launches elephant rescue initiative

An elephant hits the road in Thailand's Khao Yai National Park

InterContinental Khao Yai Resort is located in Khao Yai National Park, one of Thailand’s oldest parks that spans more than 2,000 square kilometres. It’s a haven for nature and home to elephants, gibbons and a diverse range of birdlife and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The resort is now collaborating with the Thai Elephant Research and Conservation Fund (TERF), a conservation group that seeks to protect elephants through education and awareness.

The collaboration means guests at the resort will be able to visit TERF’s elephant rescue centre as well as taking part in educational courses to find out more about the evolution, biology and behaviour of elephants. At the same time, they will have the opportunity to get involved with hands-on tasks such as feeding and bathing the elephants. The courses are open to all ages.

Dr Alongkot Chukaew is director of TERF and has dedicated his career to educating people about the protection of elephants in their natural habitat. The TERF centre is home to three rescued elephants and is around an hour’s drive from InterContinental Khao Yai. Dr Chukaew says he developed an interest in elephants as a child because his mother liked elephants, but soon became aware of the threats to Thailand’s national symbol.

“Thailand has two groups of elephants, including wild elephants and captive elephants,” he explains. “There are approximately 4,000 to 4,400 elephants living naturally in 91 protected areas, including wildlife sanctuaries, non-hunting areas and national parks. Domestic elephants number around 4,200.”

Thai resort launches elephant rescue initiative

TERF's centre is home to three rescued elephants

Chukaew’s doctoral university studies centred around researching the threats to both groups with a view to improving conservation of these majestic beasts. TERF operates under the Foundation for Environment and Society, a group that also promotes conservation through various methods, with an emphasis on providing education about elephants through the creation of learning courses at basic and higher levels. 

“The important thing that will promote conservation and protection of Thai elephants is knowledge,” says Chukaew. “If visitors start by studying from experts and understanding the cultural and scientific elements involved in raising elephants, this will have a positive impact on conservation.”

TERF has many learning opportunities, such as an elephant health examination lab and forest planting to create habitats.

Chukaew works tirelessly to educate the public and regularly leads workshops and camps for local school children teaching them about animal welfare and  the environmental issues affecting elephants. With this new partnership, InterContinental Khao Yai has opened up this opportunity for learning to its international guests.

Resort guests can visit the centre between 9am and 5pm and there is no entrance charge or age requirement. They can also book through the resort to join one of three educational courses to find out more about the elephant and participate in various elephant care activities. Participation in a course must be booked at least one day in advance and they cost around US$30 per person, depending on the course.

Sandy Liw, general manager of InterContinental Khao Yai Resort, said the property was “delighted” to be launching its first Corporate Social Responsibility partnership with TERF and raise awareness of elephant conservation internationally.

Ultimately, Chukaew believes the future of Thailand’s elephants  is a positive one. “Thailand has a good management system for both wild and domestic elephants,” he says. “We have continually raised the level of conservation.”

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