An elephant in the wild.

New Wildlife Heritage Area in Thailand Gives New Life to Rescued Elephants



Living in the Forest with Elephants (LIFE) is the newest Wildlife Heritage Area to be announced. It’s the 15th official Wildlife Heritage Area since the launch of the program in 2022.

Sitting on over 90,000 acres of protected rainforest on the border of Thailand and Myanmar is Living in the Forest with Elephants (LIFE), the first elephant-focused Wildlife Heritage Area.

Since launching Wildlife Heritage Areas, a project founded by World Animal Protection and World Cetacean Alliance in October 2022, we have welcomed 15 specialized areas around the world to highlight some of the highest quality, responsible, and community-led wildlife watching.

Each Wildlife Heritage Area goes through an application process with specialized NGOs, wildlife experts, responsible tourism companies, and local communities to be considered. Every member, including Living in the Forest with Elephants (LIFE), must meet the highest standards of criteria including respectful human-wildlife coexistence, cultural significance, responsible wildlife tourism, governance, and management plan.

With the goals of sustainable tourism, nature conservation, and supporting local communities, Wildlife Heritage Areas allow local people to recognize their natural heritage with pride. They play a central role in protecting wild habitats and the animals who call them home. Elephants are some of the most beloved animals in the world, and we’re so excited that the first-ever elephant-specific Wildlife Heritage Area has been established. 

Elephant riding experiences in Thailand and Southeast Asia are a main tourism attraction, fueled by animal cruelty through training such as “the crush” and forced mother-calf separation. In these areas, local communities were often taken advantage of due to not having a source of income, forcing small villages to sell elephants into the tourism industry in order to support their families.

However, the Mahouts Elephant Foundation has been working to reunite these elephants with their caretakers while allowing the animals to enjoy life as closely as how they would in the wild. Receiving care from their mahouts on a daily or weekly basis, the elephants are free to roam the 90,000 acres of LIFE and are no longer forced to work in the trekking industry or directly interact with the general public.

Applications to be considered a certified Wildlife Heritage Area are currently open and we’re excited to grow our community of wildlife-friendly tourist destinations around the world.

Want more tips and tricks to being a wildlife-friendly traveler or more wildlife-friendly places to see? Check out our quick wildlife-friendly travel guide for who to book with, where to go, and ways to responsibly watch wildlife as well as our updated list of Wildlife Heritage Areas to visit around the world.

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