Stopping Elephant Calf Trafficking

Elephant Family is fighting to stop the systematic removal of baby elephants from their forest homes. In order to fuel the tourist industry in Thailand, baby elephants are being captured and subjected to a horrific 'domestication' process, before winding up at elephant camps where tourists pose for pictures with them, unaware of the elephant's tragic story.

Right now our campaigns team is lobbying the Thai government to stop the illegal trade. Our campaign is already seeing amazing successes. But to get to where we need to, we urgently need to expose the full extent of the problem and how it is devastating wild populations.

Only when we are armed with information on trade routes, capture hotspots, and the numbers of elephants crossing borders each year can we equip governments with the intelligence they need to enforce the law and stamp out corruption.

This illegal and brutal cross border trade in wild Asian elephants is a very real threat to remaining populations of the endangered species.

  • Extracted from the forest, baby elephants are separated from their families, and subjected to a brutal practice, where they are tied up, confined, beaten and tortured to break their spirits
  • For every wild caught calf that makes it alive into a camp, it is estimated that up to two others will die from this 'domestication' process, and as many as five others are killed during the capture
  • It is estimated that anywhere between 50 - 100 calves and young females are being traded across the Thai-Myanmar (Burma) border each year, to supply tourist camps

With the rapid growth of tourism and demand for Asian elephants in entertainment, there are strong incentives to illegally capture and trade live individuals taken from the wild. Calves are particularly desirable as they have greater appeal to tourists and generate the most revenue, as well as being easier to train. CITES, 2014


Elephant Family is at the forefront of a campaign to combat illegal elephant smuggling, and is lobbying for a review of outdated existing laws, to protect baby elephants and prevent illegal trade. 

A report released by Elephant Family and TRAFFIC reveals this despicable trade is so widespread; it’s now posing a serious threat to entire wild populations. Our undercover investigation recorded the capture of 81 wild elephants over 18 months. This is a huge blow to Myanmar’s already fragile population of just 4,000 elephants. However these figures are based on just one report and are scratching the surface. We know that this trade is not confined to Myanmar and Thailand, but is happening across Asia.

Read the full report for more information.

A Conservation Milestone

In October 2016 Thailand announced a new law for all elephant owners which required them to adopt a DNA Registration System to keep track of all captive elephantsThis comes in response to a number of investigations carried out by NGO Elephant Family and mounting pressure from the conservation sector. Our next step is to working with other range states in following Thailand’s landmark footsteps. Read more here

What you can do

The systematic removal of Asian elephants from the wild must stop but Elephant Family is not calling for a boycott of elephant camps as they rely on tourism to feed and look after those elephants currently in their care. There are a number of ways you can help:  

  • Donate now, and help Elephant Family save baby elephants from the tourist trade 
  • Support us on FacebookTwitter and sign up to our e-news for all the latest updates on Elephant Family work, events and fundraisers