You Can Zoom With An Elephant In Thailand And Help Fund Their Care

Given the prevalence of Zoom calls in lieu of in person meetings, we’re all getting used to communicating through computer screens (and judging, whether we admit it or not, the background behind that person’s computer.)  A new addition to that, courtesy of the Human Elephant Learning Programs Foundation (H-ELP) in partnership with the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF) is a Zoom call with an elephant in a background undeniably better than yours: the ancient jungle of northern Thailand.

Participants get a ten minute drop in with an elephant for $100 and an additional two minute introduction and three minute question and answer session with an elephant expert for $200 with all funds directed to the elephants’ maintenance. Due to Thailand’s lockdown in March and the decline of tourism overall due to COVID-19, funds to support the elephants have dwindled. As Marlee Horobin, Chairperson of H-ELP, explains, Asian elephants are already endangered due to poaching and loss of habitat. “The drying up of funds to support domesticated elephants means there is a real risk many could starve, or their parts end up elsewhere in Asia for medicinal purposes,” she says. “This is a chance for us to raise funds to prevent that.”

 Funds that could have come from Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort to support the 23 elephants living in the surrounding jungle have also been reduced since the resort was closed as part of the lockdown and although reopened now, only Thai residents can visit. As John Roberts, Anantara’s Group Director of Sustainability & Conservation explains, it costs $20 a day to feed an elephant, $18,000 a year and the resort has taken on the upkeep of three additional elephants who had been supported by one of the 85 camps that closed during the lockdown. The resort in tandem with international elephant organizations is also subsidizing the wages of veterinarians to treat any elephant north of Bangkok.

As Horobin explains, one on one meetings aren’t the only interactions that can be arranged; elephants can appear—to other participants’ surprise—in a group meeting to enliven discussions. To arrange a Zoom call, guests should go to H-ELP’s website and click Shop to support H-ELP. The elephants are available during Thailand daytime, 6 PM to 6 AM EST.

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