Calf interacting with a juvenile  Calf and mahout playing in river  Training session  Street view with elephant  Mahout on a male elephant  Mahout with a juvenile male

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Training an elephant to turn on cue
When elephants are trained with positive reinforcement instead of the usual "breaking the will", they learn faster, achieve better precision at work and become a lot calmer and safer to work with. The photo shows a training session at one of our workshops in Chitwan, Nepal.

Elephants grazing
Captive elephants still have the same innate needs as their wild counterparts, such as a need for social contact and normal body movements without restricting chains. These elephants live at the sanctuary Elephant Nature Park in Thailand.
Optimized training and management

This section of the website provides information on practices that have proven to improve the health and well-being of elephants used for work, tourism or other purposes in south Asia. The practices also benefit their mahouts, owners and managers. Elephants become easier to control, work more precisely and have less aggression, which saves human lives.

Why are improvements needed?

The majority of captive elephants in the world today have been trained by the "breaking the will" method, involving pain and injury. When not at work, many of them are chained in a standing position, often in ways that cause long-term health problems.

Most mahouts, managers and owners do not want to harm the elephants. But these systems of training and managing elephants are the only ones they know. Many are also genuinely unaware of some of the problems, such as the risk of chronic pain caused by some chaining systems and howdah types.

Availability of information is the key

Training and handling animals with positive reinforcement is becoming increasingly popular on many species of animals across the world. The experience of us and others shows that it brings great benefits to elephant training too. Mahouts who have seen it in practice are typically very eager to learn it.

The same applies to other aspects of management. Prevention and treatment of health problems is best served by increasing the availability of knowledge on elephant healthcare. Advances in elephant veterinary medicine during recent decades have resulted in new ways of diagnosing and treating health problems that have significant potential in improving the health and working ability of a large number of elephants. There also is more and more practical experience available on health-improving solutions in planning the elephant camp infrastructure, such as replacing the use of chains with electric fences.

Copyright © Elephant Experts 2014-2016
Photo copyright © Elephant Experts and the photographers:
Minna Tallberg, Helena Telkänranta, Marc Pierard, Karpagam Chelliah,
Nirvay Sah, Sudhir Yadav and Ramesh Belagere