Have you seen videos of elephants enduring brutal abuse during the traditional “training” process? That footage captures the terror, pain and bewilderment of the elephant. It also captures the certainty of “trainers” that this is the only way an elephant can learn to obey humans and not hurt them. We reject this premise. We are working with leaders in positive reinforcement or reward-based training to reset the paradigm in Southeast Asia. Elephants deserve better.
Last month our Elephant Master, Prasop Tipprasert, invited world-renown trainer, Dr. Andrew McClean, co-founder and chair of the Human Elephant Learning Program, to spend a weekend with our guides and mahouts and show them how to manage elephant behavior using simple repetitive actions. Our baby boy, Kit, was the focus of the training, which centered on learning to walk forward, backward and stop with one-word commands, a click and a reward.
What did HE learn? Each of those three essential behavioral tools. What did WE learn? What we already knew: throw away the hooks, hammers, nails and chains and over time, with consistent practice, a bunch of delicious bananas can work miracles. As the Human Elephant Learning Program wisely says, “Abuse ends where knowledge begins.”