Today we’re kicking off an interview series on OHW that will ask travelers, tech entrepreneurs, social enterprises, and more to share a bit about the work they are doing and why they’re doing it. Oh Hey World believes in not only the transformative power of travel (that’s definitely a focus of ours), but in the positive changes we can create when we connect with like-minded people (that’s the core of the OHW platform). During my travels in Southeast Asia over the years I began to learn more about the plight of the Asian elephant, conservation efforts in the region, and ways to travel responsibly in Thailand, Cambodia, and Myanmar . When friend and fellow travel blogger Diana Edelman slowed down her travels and began working for Save Elephant Foundation in Thailand I knew she was just the right person to kick off the interview series.
1) Tell me a bit about the work Save Elephant Foundation is doing in Southeast Asia and why it’s needed.
Save Elephant Foundation is working to protect Asian elephants in Thailand and beyond. The foundation, founded by Sangduen “Lek” Chailert, a renowned animal conservationist, not only works to protect the Asian elephant, but also other animals. Elephants in SE Asia are being removed from the wild and the main goal of SEF is to raise awareness about the plight of Asian elephants and how current activities in the tourism industry impact the population of the elephants in the region. Other than the elephants, SEF also works to give people in local communities better lives by providing aid and education — particularly as it relates to elephants mahouts or elephant caretakers who, prior to working with SEF, would have their elephants working.
2) As a traveler yourself, why did you decide to stop traveling and work with the Foundation?
As a traveler, I decided to stop traveling so much and join the Foundation because I believe in what Lek is doing. When I first visited the foundation’s Elephant Nature Park in 2011, I was shocked at how little I knew about animal exploitation and animals working in the tourism industry all over the world. My time as a volunteer there really opened my eyes to the decisions we make as travelers, and the fact that most people who come to this part of the world are not aware that the decisions they make in regards to animal attractions can greatly impact an entire industry and trade. Lek’s unyielding passion and desire to make the world a better place for animals is truly inspiring. Her love knows no bounds and being able to help her raise awareness about her foundation and responsible tourism is a dream fulfilled for me. I’ve always loved to write and do PR, but to be able to use my skills to try to better the world and change people’s ideas of what is responsible tourism … it makes me so happy.
3) What work are you doing at the Foundation right now?
I do the PR and social media for the foundation. I have traveled a bit and done research regarding the human elephant interaction, and also have been a part of two elephant rescues.
4) When I visited the Elephant Nature Park, I noticed visitors could not ride the elephants, which was a new concept for me, can you share the work the Foundation is doing in this regard.
The foundation’s main focus to is to educate tourists and future travelers to this region of how their actions impact the lives of wild and captive Asian elephants. Our hope is that with this information, people will make more informed choices as it relates to the animal activities they choose. The most common mistake people make in SE Asia is not being educated. Ignorance is bliss.
5) How can both short and long-term travelers have the biggest impact in supporting Save Elephant Foundation?
Short and long-term travelers can have the biggest impact by taking what they learn from SEF and their visits to the foundation’s projects and telling others. Education can change the world, and the elephants need people to speak for them.
If you’re keen to connect with Diana on the OHW network, you can follow her check-ins and activity from her OHW profile. Other important links to connect to Save Elephant and Diana include:
Save Elephant on Twitter and Facebook
Diana on Twitter