Hug Elephant Sanctuary was founded in September 2015 by Mr. Sawat Pansiri, Miss Nattarika Toonkeaw and Miss Nisachon Jaipang. The founders have worked in the tourism industry for 25 years. They acknowledge the importance of the Thai elephants and realise that the number of the elephants in Thailand has been decreasing rapidly. Hug Elephant Sanctuary was established to address this issue and improve conditions for the elephants, locals in the community, and the environment.
Elephants have been revered in Thailand for centuries. Thai people and elephants have worked and lived together both in peace and in battle. Therefore, the elephant is the national animal of Thailand.
In the colonisation period, the role of elephants was changed from fighting in battles to becoming workers in the forest for the forestry industry.
In 1850, there were an estimated 100,000 elephants in Thailand. Now, it is difficult to count the number of wild elephants but it is predicted as 2,000-3,000 by elephant specialists. In addition to wild elephants, there are now only 2,700 domesticated elephants in Thailand and 95% percent of them are owned by the private sector.
Once elephants have been domesticated, it is not practical for them to be released back into the wild. The founders established Hug Elephant as a small sanctuary to improve the quality of care given to these elephants.
Hug Elephant Sanctuary has partnered with elephant mahouts (caretakers) who are from the local Karen villages. They are interested in bringing their elephants to join in this project because it allows them to provide for their families while maintaining a focus on the elephants’ quality of life.
We divide the revenue we earn from our wonderful guests equally: 50% goes to the mahouts and is for elephants’ food, and the other 50% is for the upkeep and operations of the sanctuary and employees.
There are no elephant shows or elephant riding here and the use of a hook is not what it once was, or is elsewhere. However, the mahouts will carry a hook for self-defence. Elephants are large and strong animals and we prioritise the safety of the mahouts and our guests.
To keep our elephants safe and ensure they do not wander into the agricultural areas of the locals, elephants are kept in a fenced area when the mahouts are not with them. In addition, we pay special attention to the elephants’ health and quality of life. We provide enough food for them each day by planting hay and buying agricultural products from the nearby communities. We use many kinds of herbs as medicine for the elephants and we also have veterinarians to look after them.