The TONG-BAI FOUNDATION is a non profit organisation and was set up in order to provide good living and working conditions for Thailand’s working elephants and their owners.
Across the world elephants are worshipped and held in high esteem. Mostly, man and elephant work side by side in a relationship of mutual respect and benefit. Unfortunately, sometimes this relationship is disturbed, and in these cases the TONG-BAI FOUNDATION aims to provide good living and working conditions for elephants who are too young or too old, as well as their owners.
The TONG-BAI FOUNDATION rents elephants from these age groups to ease the financial pressure on their owners, so that the elephants do not have to perform labour unsuitable for their state of health and age. To achieve this the TONG-BAI FOUNDATION works in close cooperation with the commercial enterprise of ELEPHANT SPECIAL TOURS. Our elephants live in our camp or are integrated into the herd of ELEPHANT SPECIAL TOURS without any commercial interest. Our elephants do not necessarily have to earn their living but can be occupied according to their skills and condition. It is important to understand that a trained working elephant needs to be occupied. Therefore we feel confident that a healthy mix of daily work and extensive periods of rest will mostly satisfy both the mental and physical requirements of our elephants. Young elephants can enjoy an extended childhood with us in order to fully develop, both mentally and physically. When they reach the appropriate age they will be introduced to a daily working routine in a kind and playful way.
The TONG-BAI FOUNDATION relies entirely on donations. All funds are used solely for the elephants and their care. The support provided through our close cooperation with ELEPHANT SPECIAL TOURS enables us to implement our set goal effectively: to lead the elephant into a secure and healthy future. Help us provide an appropriate life for the domesticated working elephant in his natural habitat: in the forest, surrounded by mountains, rivers, and rice fields.
Elephants in Thailand – Between Cultural Worship and lack of habitat
The relationship between elephants and people is and always has been an extraordinary one. Domesticated elephants play an important role in Thailand’s history and culture. The Buddhist religion is also linked to these grey giants; their image and characteristics were often used as metaphors in Buddha’s teachings. Throughout Thailand’s history elephants have been used to help in the construction of temples as well as in the logging industry. However, that all changed in 1989 when the logging industry was shut down. Overnight thousands of elephants and their owners became unemployed. The elephant went from being the main provider of the family to an unaffordable burden due to high costs of food and care. Some of the elephants found rewarding employment in the tourist industry but many others were not so lucky and are forced to eke out whatever existence they can, often under miserable living and working conditions. Furthermore the habitat for wild elephants continues to decrease. The Asian elephant’s population is officially listed as highly endangered. The situation is so serious that the elephant is in real danger of extinction within the next three generations. No accurate figures are available for their numbers 100 years ago, but it is estimated that back then there were over 100.000 elephants in Thailand alone. Today only about 3.000 to 4.000 elephants are left, half of which are domesticated and the remainder living wild in National Parks.
The TONG-BAI FOUNDATION is named after our bull elephant Tong Bai. In March 2010, he died at the age of 25 when in a severe thunder storm one of the many lightning bolts struck a tree that was very close to him. Panicking, he ran through the forest and tripped, resulting in a fatal fall down a slope. He will always have a place in our hearts. In his name and memory the TONG-BAI FOUNDATION is committed to providing good living and working conditions for Thailand’s working elephants and their owners.