Elephants in Thailand who were once used for logging were shifted over to the growing tourism industry after a ban on logging in the 1980s. "They have no choice but to send their elephants to work in tourism in the cities and a mahout with them," Blaine explained. "It's a terrible life for both elephant and man."
But Thong Kam's mahout tried to give her a better life by choosing a riding camp that didn't use heavy carts, which can cause sores and stress on the elephant's back.
"Thong Kam was in a neck riding facility, so tourists would ride on her neck and learn to be a mahout for the day," Blaine explained. Meanwhile, Bai Fern "would just wander around being bored and not able to get attention from her mom."
When given the opportunity to free Thong Kam and her family from the riding camp, her mahout embraced the idea.