For over ten years, Boon Lott's Elephant Sanctuary (BLES) has been rescuing and providing sanctuary to elephants who have worked in the logging and tourism industries in Thailand. A true sanctuary, BLES taught us a great deal about creating an environment that allows elephants the freedom to just be elephants, providing staff and mahouts with the power and facilities they need to do the jobs that they do so well, and involving the local community so that everyone participates, benefits, and is proud of animal welfare and conservation initiatives.
The staff and mahouts at BLES are fully dedicated to making sure the elephants are happy, healthy, and well adjusted, which includes providing routine medical care. Protected Contact and positive reinforcement training allows them to do this safely and easily with minimal stress to the elephants.
"Chrissy has a beautiful and very natural way of connecting with elephants. Her skills and experience with training animals are imperative to establishing high levels of welfare for captive elephants. All of us at BLES are beyond thankful to Chrissy for helping us create protocols for our elephants, helping to reduce stress levels for them, as well as ensuring maximum safety for everyone involved during procedures such as performing foot care. Chrissy is extreme - extremely professional, extremely dedicated, and an extreme perfectionist. The captive elephants of our world are lucky to have her!"
---Katherine Conner, Founder, Boon Lott's Elephant Sancuary, Thailand
One of the last places like it on earth, Pakke Tiger Reserve (PTR) is a pristine landscape and home to hundreds of rare and endangered species of flora and fauna. What makes PTR special are the coordinated efforts of the Forest Department, conservation organizations, and local indigenous communities to protect and conserve the forest and wildlife. At PTR, we learned how much tireless dedication is required to thwart poaching, wildlife trafficking, and deforestation, mitigate Human Elephant Conflict, and provide opportunities and a safe place for globally threatened species to thrive.
Elephants play an important role in enabling the Forest Department to effectively patrol and protect the reserve from illegal activity while minimizing damage to the forest itself. The Forest Department also rescues and rehabilitates orphaned elephant calves who have been affected by poaching and wildlife trafficking in Arunachal Pradesh. We worked directly with mahouts, who are members of the local Nyishi Tribe, to introduce Protected Contact, positive reinforcement training, and enrichment to improve the lives of the elephants in their care and create working partnerships based on mutual trust and respect.
"I started working with elephants right from my veterinarian college days in the late '90's. I had an eagerness and passion to learn and help elephants wherever the opportunity arose. However, along the way I realized it was a one sided love affair...from me to them, never them to me. All of my exposure was working with elephants in Free Contact. Then I had the wonderful opportunity to work with Chrissy. Performing medical procedures aided by positive reinforcement shined a light into the dark world I had been working in. It taught me what I now regard as, 'from the perspective of elephants.' Chrissy's work not only helped to totally eliminate negative force during medical procedures, it helped me understand what was going on in the minds of elephants; their fears, their concerns, their likes and dislikes. In other words, I got to know them and their individual personalities, and they got to know me. No matter how much is said about Chrissy and her commitment to elephants, it would never be enough!" ---Dr. Rinku Gohain, Wildlife Veterinarian, Wildlife Trust of India
Zimbabwe Elephant Nursery (ZEN) works with Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority to rescue elephant calves who have been orphaned by poaching for the illegal ivory trade or other human interference. While they are healing and still milk dependent, the orphans live at the nursery with their keepers, who act as surrogate mothers. When the calves are ready, they are introduced to wild elephant herds and begin their transformation back into the wild.
A second branch of the same organization, Wild is Life Trust is a true sanctuary that provides a safe haven for injured, orphaned, and rescued wildlife, including Endangered and Specially protected species.
Everyone at Wild is Life / ZEN are working hard to protect and conserve Zimbabwe's beautiful wildlife, unique ecosystems, and natural resources. The staff at Wild is Life / ZEN live and work by their cornerstone philosophy, 'One by One.' We learned that the key to the bigger conservation picture lies in caring for each animal, (humans included,) as individual, sentient beings. All life on earth is inextricably interconnected; the individual and the whole are one in the same.
Operant conditioning, positive reinforcement, and Protected Contact complimented and enhanced Wild is Life / ZEN's values and beliefs. Whether the animals were living at the sanctuary or being released into the wild, safe, stress free solutions were needed to effectively manage them and provide necessary medical care. We worked with elephant keepers and sanctuary caretakers to productively advance high standards of welfare, strengthen relationships, and provide each individual with the care, love, and freedom they deserve.
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