Promoting the compassionate application of operant conditioning principles to improve the lives of captive elephants and their caretakers by fostering relationships built on mutual trust, respect, and freedom of choice.
We work directly with mahouts, trainers, and owners to reframe the working relationship between human and elephant through positive reinforcement training, enrichment, and high standards of welfare.
Captive. The implications of this word trouble us all. In a perfect world, the term 'captive elephant' wouldn’t even exist. Elephants would be able to live out their lives in the wild, while we proceed with our human lives in harmonious coexistence. Luckily there are legions of wonderful people and organizations out there who are working towards this lofty goal. I wholeheartedly support them and contribute in any way I can, as this is my ultimate goal, too. Although there’s loads of work to be done, this vision is certainly attainable, and also essential for both elephants’ and our own survival.
I don’t have to tell you that, unfortunately, this isn’t a perfect world...yet. Captive elephants are a fact of life, in all parts of the world. Whether they are a working elephant, in a zoo, or in a sanctuary with acres of land, the fact remains that they are indeed captive elephants. As much as we’d love to simply release them all into the wild, with the exception of a few special circumstances this just isn’t a reality for most at this time. There are a multitude of reasons for this, the primary one being there isn't enough wild to release them into, something those wonderful people and organizations mentioned earlier are working hard to correct.
As of now, captive elephants are an unavoidable reality. The good news is, the term ‘captive elephant’ isn’t always synonymous with ‘miserable elephant.’ I know this because I’ve seen it with my own two eyes, experienced it with my own elephant loving heart. There are thousands of ways we can provide elephants living in captivity with the physical, mental, and emotional care they need. We can create environments that allow as much freedom of choice as possible. There are bounteous ways to work with elephants as partners, rather than slaves. It will take a long time to clean up the mess we’ve made. Until the day comes when we can live peacefully alongside wild elephants, it is our duty to do the best we possibly can by them.
My heartfelt thanks for your support.
Executive Director, Elephation
Animal Behavior Specialist
Chrissy Pratt has been an animal trainer and behaviorist for 18 years. She has worked with a variety of animals, and has consulted with elephant organizations all over the world, including Save Elephant Foundation, Boon Lott's Elephant Sanctuary, and Burm and Emily’s Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand; Wild is Life/Zimbabwe Elephant Nursery in Zimbabwe; Tiger Tops Elephant Camp and Stand Up 4 Elephants in Nepal; Pakke Tiger Reserve in India; and Life in Oozie Village Ecohut/Myanmar Timber Enterprise in Myanmar.
Chrissy is passionate about all animals, fascinated by their behavior, and deeply committed to their conservation. Chrissy began her career working with animals as a volunteer at the New York Aquarium in 2002, where she became passionate about operant conditioning and positive reinforcement training, and how this helps improve the lives of animals living in captivity. This led to a career working with marine mammals at Sea Life Park Hawaii, The Mirage Dolphin Habitat in Las Vegas, and dolphin assisted therapy at Onmega Dolphin Therapy Marmaris in Turkey. During this time her curiosity about all animals persisted, motivating her to volunteer with primates at the Honolulu Zoo and learn about prey animal psychology and Natural Horsemanship at Horse Sense of the Carolinas in Marshall, North Carolina.
Throughout the course of Chrissy’s career as a marine mammal trainer, her feelings about animals in captivity for the purposes of entertainment evolved. She began to look towards applying her skills in a way that would promote conservation, rescue, rehabilitation, and finding creative ways for humans and animals to work together in a manner that benefits both...not just humans. She learned about managing elephants in protected contact and utilizing positive reinforcement training as an Animal Care Specialist at Busch Gardens Tampa. Her interest in rescue and rehabilitation was also fostered in Tampa, FL, where she volunteered with local animal rescue organizations. Her desire to share ideas and knowledge to improve the lives of elephants working in developing countries brought her to Thailand in 2013, where her career as a consultant began. When she is not teaching positive reinforcement training techniques and ways to improve elephant welfare, Chrissy likes to spend her time learning about other cultures and ‘jungle’ ways of life.
Chrissy is infinitely grateful to all her mentors; two legged, four legged, sometimes three legged, winged, clawed, finned, flippered, furry, scaly, bristly, and smelly. This of course includes the human variety, all the selfless teachers, friends, family, mahouts (traditional elephant caregivers,) communities, and steadfast supporters who have made it possible to live her dream and give her hope for this beautiful world.
Chrissy Pratt, Animal Behavior Specialist and Executive Director of Elephation
Christine is a retired resident of Lewistown, Montana, having lived there for 45 years, currently with her husband, a dog, three cats, two horses, and nine alpacas.
Born, raised, and schooled in California, Christine left the west coast with a B. A. In Experimental Psychology from Santa Clara University. After a year of graduate school at Colorado University, she worked as a Behavioral Research technician at the VA Hospital in Denver for several years. After marriage, she was a research technician at Children's Asthma Research Institute. Subsequently, Christine’s husband accepted a professorship at the University of Guam. Three years, many travels, and two children later, they came home and settled in Lewistown. Here they have raised five children and a vast assortment of other animals. In addition, Christine has been owner/operator of a community fitness center, and later established a small alpaca business, raising alpacas and working with their fiber.
Amy Pratt does Accounts Receivable at Steigerwald-Dougherty, Inc. general contracting company to help organize and generate cash flow and revenue. Amy prepares bills to clients for labor and materials, processes payroll, deposits, and cash receipts balancing and schedules. She does project and subcontractor budget reconciliations and maintains A/R aging, working with Excel spreadsheets and contractor software. She processes fund control billings and assists with monthly financial statements. Amy is dedicated to detail and values problem solving and customer service skills.
Amy enjoys hiking and the outdoors, movies, cooking vegetarian cuisine, and playing the violin for her rescued dogs and cat.
A specialist in the application of the scientific principles of learning with a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology, Peter began his career as an Associate Professor of Psychology. In his four years of college teaching he was able to optimize student learning by rewarding their consistent attendance and participation throughout each semester thereby simultaneously promoting cumulative incremental growth while eliminating the necessity for binge cramming during final exams. Following his four years of college teaching, Peter spent the next thirty years as a School Psychologist observing, testing, diagnosing and collaborating to devise treatment plans for children with learning and/or behavior problems. In most cases, as with his college career, this involved applying tried and true learning principles to help parents, teachers, and students succeed.
In retirement, Peter enjoys reading, cooking, running, walking, hiking, backpacking, camping, kayaking, skiing, working out at the gym, playing ice hockey, roller hockey, and traveling. He also does volunteer work for plastics recycling.
Peter Pratt Jr.’s eclectic career includes work as an archeologist, school psychologist, river guide, claims processor and team manager for the Montana Dept. of Labor & Industry, and current employment as a U.S. Forest Service ranger in Colorado. Peter earned his undergraduate degree from Montana State University in Anthropology/Archeology, and M.A. and Ed.S. degrees in School Psychology from the University of Montana.
In his free time Peter enjoys hiking, backpacking, hot springs, canoeing, travel, meditation, running, tai chi, and exploring and learning about the astounding life forms and ecosystems constituting our natural world.
Abigail Pratt is from Lewistown MT and has continued to spend much of her adult years in MT. Abigail is currently an employee of Fork & Spoon Homestyle Kitchen, which is Montana's first & only pay-what-you-can restaurant. There, she helps to focus on creating homegrown, scratch cooking using locally sourced ingredients for those who may or may not have the means. Relying primarily on volunteers, her status as an employee has allowed her to be a part of something bigger, pushing forward everyday. Having time to spend on volunteering elsewhere, she volunteers her time at the Heart of the Valley Animal Shelter. Here she succeeds to compassionately shelter the lost and surrendered pets of Gallatin & Madison Valleys.
Abigail graduated high school in Lewistown MT. From there pursued an AA from North Idaho College, where she also ran cross country/track on scholarship. These opportunities then brought her to Hammond LA, where she received a BA in history from Southeastern Louisiana University.
Abigail has lived at her current residence for 2 years and enjoys the outdoors, walking & hiking, museums, local music & theatre, and at home loves and adores a rescued cat of her own.
Dr. Erica Ward earned a bachelor’s degree in veterinary medicine from Michigan State University. During her undergraduate studies, she participated in a coral reef ecology and conservation study abroad program in Egypt and spent the final year of her undergraduate studies at Lincoln University in New Zealand studying animal health. Dr. Erica attended Veterinary School at Michigan State University during which she completed 3 months of clinical rotations in Thailand studying elephant medicine. She also participated in veterinary volunteer programs in Greece, South Africa and Costa Rica. After earning her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 2013, she moved to Thailand to work as a full time veterinarian at an elephant sanctuary and had the honor of working with Elephation’s founder, Chrissy Pratt. In 2016, Dr. Erica transitioned to her current job as the Head Veterinarian and Academic Director of a veterinary based study abroad company called Loop Abroad. In 2017, she also founded a non-profit organization dedicated to veterinary outreach for elephants, wildlife and domestic animals in Thailand and around the world.
Dr. Rinku Gohain, Joint Director and Veterinarian of AWRRO (Assam Wildlife Rescue and Research Organisation), is an elephant veterinarian from Assam, India who acquired both his Bachelor of Veterinary Science and Master in Veterinary Surgery and Radiology degrees from the College of Veterinary Science, Assam Agricultural University, India.
Dr. Gohain has previously worked as a Veterinarian for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Wildlife Trust of India, and as the Veterinary consultant for Save Elephant Foundation, Elephant Nature Park, Chiangmai, Thailand.
Karissa Reinbold obtained her B.S. with a double major in Biology (emphasis in Marine Biology) and Psychology from Central Michigan University and is one class away from completing her Masters Degree in Biology (emphasis in Global Conservation) from Miami University of Ohio. Karissa has completed coursework in Mississippi (Gulf Coast Research Laboratory) and abroad, working with several community based conservation projects in Kenya, Borneo and Belize. She has over 16 years of experience throughout 4 different facilities in captive animal care, training and welfare with her primary focus on marine mammals and elephants. She was the selected candidate to work in Mendoza, Argentina for a short term assignment with 4 elephants who are waiting to go to sanctuary in Brazil. Currently, she is in Brazil working with Global Sanctuary for Elephants to refine their training program for their resident elephants. In addition to animal training and welfare, Karissa prides herself on her ability to teach people. In her free time she enjoys running, surfing, yoga, studying other languages and hanging with her super handsome pup, Buckwheat.
Your support and contributions will enable us to improve conditions for captive elephants, their caretakers, and the communities in which they live. Your generous donation will go a long way and is greatly appreciated.