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Project information

Stop Baby Elephant Smuggling

Asian elephant calves are being torn from their families in the wild and subjected to a brutal 'taming' process to break their spirits, so they can be sold and ridden by tourists. Elephant Family is fighting to stop this torture and smuggling of baby elephants and keep them in their forest homes.

2 years

Charity information: Elephant Family

Elephant Family logo
  • Need


    Elephant Family is fighting to STOP the capture of baby elephants from their forest homes to supply the tourist industry.

    Mothers and family members are often killed in the process, and the calves are then subjected to a horrific 'taming' ritual, where they are tied up and beaten to break their spirits. Many simply do not survive.

    This illegal trade in live wild Asian elephants is extremely inhumane and a very real threat to remaining populations of this endangered species.


    Elephant Family will continue its critical research into illegal elephant smuggling. By providing crucial insights into the trade and its devastating impacts on wild elephant populations we can ensure that the issue remains on the global political agenda. We will continue to lobby for a review of outdated existing elephant laws, the introduction of a captive elephant registration system, greater law enforcement and greater awareness - all key to combating elephant capture and trade.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    To stop baby Asian elephants being captured from the wild and smuggled into the tourist industry


    » Critical research into the extent and nature of the illegal trade and its devastating impacts on wild elephant populations
    » Lobbying for (and support of) reviews, revisions and enforcement of existing elephant laws in countries implicated in the trade
    » Addressing the international trade (especially from Myanmar to Thailand) through CITES, so governments are forced to take action
    » Alerting people to this issue, especially tourists to Asia, so that they can make informed decisions if they visit elephants

    What success will look like

    We will have succeeded when endangered Asian elephants are no longer taken from the wild to supply the tourist industry, and governments are doing what is needed to stop the trade

  • Impact


    The prospects for future survival of numerous populations of Asian elephants will be greatly enhanced through this project, which will also bring about a change in attitudes towards captive elephants and even how they are cared for in the poorer facilities.

    These changes will be reflected in a reduction in the numbers of baby elephants taken from the wild and smuggled into the tourist industry, national and international laws, and in tourist facility standards.


    If tourists stay away from all elephant facilities there will be a danger that they will be unable to adequately feed and care for their elephants, creating a welfare crisis. There are also some facilities that are very good and are part of the solution. Therefore, Elephant Family is not calling for a boycott of elephant camps - a message we ensure is at the forefront of our campaigning - but for tourists to be discerning and to push for change.


    If you provide us with your contact details when you donate, we will send you e-mail updates about our work, including our campaign to stop baby elephant smuggling. You can also find out more on our website at www.elephantfamily.org.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £50,000

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      Amount Heading Description
      £20,000 Research Research into the extent and nature of illegal elephant smuggling
      £15,000 CITES advocacy Attendance of CITES meetings and further lobbying to force countries to take action
      £5,000 Law review Support of review existing elephant laws in Thailand
      £10,000 Awareness Raising awareness of the trade through international campaign activities
  • Background


    The illegal trade in live elephants captured from the wild is a particular problem between Myanmar into Thailand, but is also happening elsewhere in Asia, with international tourists often an unwitting part of the problem


    The endangered Asian elephant, which numbers as few as 35,000 across 13 countries in increasingly small and fragmented populations

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    Elephant Family is the leading UK organisation solely dedicated to saving the Asian elephant from extinction in the wild, and has already achieved a great deal through passion and determination. We are at the forefront of efforts to overcome the illegal trade in live elephants, and have the right networks and resources to bring about the changes required. We have already made good progress through CITES, with governments now required to take immediate action to stop the trade.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Dan Bucknell

    Dan is Head of Conservation and Campaigns at Elephant Family, responsible for managing our conservation programme in Asia

    Joanna Cary-Elwes

    Jo is Campaigns Manager at Elephant Family, responsible for coordinating work on this issue with relevant governments and partner organisations