It has been more than a year since my stay at the Surin Project in Thailand. After viewing a YouTube video announcing the completion of their long-awaited fenced habitat, I had to check out their progress.
I was pleased to learn that their growth has been steady, meeting each goal they established along the way. This privately-run elephant welfare project faces the difficult challenge of operating within a larger, much different government-run elephant attraction. In my opinion, this project surpasses all others in its capacity to bring about change for captive Thai elephants.
This grassroots project is directed by Alex Godfrey and funded by volunteers and, in part, by the Abraham Foundation. The project subsidizes mahouts to ensure that their elephants receive nutritional food and live chain-free days, foraging, swimming and interacting with other elephants. Although the experience of seeing how government-subsidized mahouts and elephants live is disheartening, Alex’s project, in staggering contrast, demonstrates incredible promise. Experiencing the two diverse programs, side-by-side, can be eye-opening for volunteers.
The Surin Project is the real thing. If you plan to visit Asia, volunteering at the Surin Project is a must. You will experience firsthand the crisis facing Thai elephants and have an opportunity to be a significant part of the solution for improved elephant and mahout welfare.