The Human Elephant Learning Programs is about the conservation of Asian elephants. Tell us more.
Our focus is on the Asian elephants that are in captivity so that they may live the best life possible. This means that their training is humane and ethically undertaken and that their management is best practice. The other side of the coin is the focus on the mahout and improving their lot as well through education. In the last couple of years, however, we have now begun to turn our sights on to conservation of elephants in general because the three projects are interdependent. Our hope is that someday all Asian elephants can live in free-range environments that will no longer require human interaction. However, until that time comes, the H-ELP Foundation is committed to creating the best life for elephants possible, using scientific, evidence-based training techniques and frameworks, and improving the lives of mahouts.
Tell us more about elephants in captivity. Is it a better option?
It isn’t a better option, it is just that there is nowhere near enough habitat for the 14,000 captives. In fact, there isn’t enough habitat for Asian elephants anywhere in Asia. Even in Myanmar, which had one of the largest populations, the wild elephant populations are decimated in their structure. Males are much rarer than they were and most populations hang around human settlements because they feel safer due to the threat of poaching. The Asian elephant is highly threatened.
What has H-ELP achieved of late?
As a result of our work in foundation-training and rehabilitation, The HELP Foundation is now the official training partner of The Wildlife Trust of India, The National Elephant Institute of Thailand and The MTE (the largest private owners of elephants in the world — 3000). The MTE located in Myanmar are attempting to rehabilitate elephants whose former lives were in hauling timber since there were world-wide restrictions on timber harvesting in Myanmar. The alternative is that the elephants will be bought by Chinese buyers and either used in unregulated tourism or ‘melted’ down for traditional medicine.
What can a patron learn by coming to the ball on June 16 at the Mornington Racecourse?
We are looking forward to showcasing our work through visual platforms and I will present a talk that will educate and provide an insight. We heavily rely on donors and we are very grateful for the local support from individuals and companies across the Mornington Peninsula who are donating and contributing to the event. All the funds will be donated to on-the-ground workshops in multiple countries across Asia.