Established in 2020 as a non-profit NGO (non-governmental organisation), Gentle Giants aims to give captive elephants and their mahouts a better way of life. Gentle Giants partners with Save Elephant Foundation and their achievements were recognised in the Responsible Thailand Awards 2022 with Gentle Giants winning the award in the Green Steps category.
Helping Thailand’s elephants
Founder of Gentle Giants, Diana Muñoz and co-founder, Colby Steiner, have worked in partnership with renowned elephant conservationist, Lek Chailert. Lek is herself the founder of Save Elephant Foundation.
The Covid pandemic had a devastating effect on Thailand’s tourist industry. That included elephants and their handlers who were reliant on visitor revenue. With no income, many mahouts and their elephants slowly began the long journey back to their villages in the north and north-east of Thailand.
While the short-term future was bleak, the crisis presented a chance for long-term change. In partnership with Lek Chailert and Save Elephant Foundation, Gentle Giants took the opportunity to work with the elephant handlers and develop a plan to meet the needs of the elephants and the local communities.
Gentle Giants Stay Home Project
The Responsible Thailand Awards judging panel were particularly impressed with the Gentle Giant Stay Home Project (GGSHP).
Launched during the height of the Covid pandemic in June 2020, GGSHP strives to facilitate the return of the elephants and the mahouts to their local communities. There are multiple advantages to this approach for the elephants and their handlers. The elephants benefit because they are no longer forced to work and can roam freely in the forest with their herd while still being under the watchful eye of their mahouts. The mahouts are able to earn a fair wage and are still able to look after their elephants all while being able to stay with their family in their home village.
The Gentle Giants Stay Home Project has already seen in excess of 100 elephants return safely to their villages.
… this potentially could be the next level up from rescuing elephants by actually semi-rewilding them in a way that benefits a marginalised community.– Responsible Thailand Award judges
Supporting responsible tourism in Thailand
Gentle Giants are one of a number of organisations helping to support Thailand’s captive elephants. The issue is complex and is not as black and white as it is sometimes portrayed in the media. There is no doubt Thailand still has work to do, but through organisations like Gentle Giants, Save Elephant Foundation and others, progress is being made.
You can find out more about how to support Gentle Giants and ethical elephant experiences in Thailand in the links below:
- Gentle Giants website
- Gentle Giants Facebook page
- Save Elephant Foundation
- Visit an ethical elephant sanctuary in Thailand
You may also enjoy
Fan Club Thailand
Tourism Thailand (UK & Ireland)
We are here to help you experience the best of amazing Thailand. Bookmark our online magazine for ideas and tips for what to see and do in Thailand, and follow us on social media for even more travel inspiration.