Episode 4: The Plight of Asia’s Elephants with John Roberts.
Both Trevor and Scott have had the pleasure of experiencing the mahout (elephant) program at the Anantara Golden Triangle in the far northern regions of Thailand along the Mekong River and welcome John Roberts to talk about an issue that is at the heart of many tourist experiences in Asia: elephants.
Luckily we’ve both had a good deal of experience with elephants in SE Asia but call upon the regional expert on the topic to chat about the plight of Asia’s elephants. While elephants are certainly a top tourist attraction in Thailand, Nepal, and to a lesser degree in Cambodia and Laos, few tourists are aware of the threat to elephant populations in the region caused by human development and deforestation of elephant’s natural habitat. On this episode, John enlightens us on the subject.
Introduction: Trevor and Scott talk about their first experiences with elephants, our impressions of those encounters, then how their feelings about elephants changed over the years with experience. They touch on the Anantara’s unique mahout program where they take an elephant, its mahout (owner) and family to the Golden Triangle, not only give them work with the elephants, but a place to live, keeping them all together.
What the Expert Says: John shares how he started working with elephants in Nepal, then Thailand, and now his greater work in conservation in the region. He then shares background on elephants’ traditional roles in SE Asian countries, the role they fulfil now, and his opinions (surprising) on how many elephants should really be working in tourism roles. He then dives in to the issue of environment encroachment and how it’s impacting elephants’ lives and habitat in the region. Finally Roberts talks of the long relationship between mahouts and their elephants and how to keep a healthy relationship working going forward.
Links to items discussed in this episode:
- Anantara Golden Triangle Mahout Program
- Follow John Robers on Twitter: @elehelp
- The Golden Triangle Elephant Foundation
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