Domesticated elephants in Thailand work their entire lives mainly for the purpose of either transporting or entertaining tourists. It is estimated that around 3,000 elephants are domesticated in Thailand, which means that there are roughly as many domesticated as there are wild, even though it has proven difficult to count. Our Elephant Volunteer Project in Thailand set up their sanctuary three years ago, saving elephants previously enslaved in a working life.
One of the first elephants they saved was then 53-year-old Mae Kam, who worked in the logging and tourism industry for over 50 years. She has a long and sad history behind her of depression and anger, which she eventually directed towards her owners and tourists, becoming known in the area as a "dangerous" elephant. She was eventually moved from the camps for her own and others' safety, and was chained in the forest for nearly two years left on her own having no interaction with other elephants. Then Burm and Emily, the sanctuary's owners offered Mae Kam's owner an alternative; to retire Mae Kam to their sanctuary and in exchange they would compensate the owner, so he and his family could manage financially without having Mae Kam working or chained up. An agreement was settled for less than a year, yet every year it was renewed - until now.