Zoom with an Elephant

COVID travel restrictions have brought hardship to elephant tourism in Thailand. Want to help? Invite an elephant to your next Zoom call.

COVID is affecting not only us humans, but also our elephant friends. Because of the travel restrictions in place, getting into Thailand is not currently possible. This is having a massive impact on the tourist industry there.

Part of that impact is being felt by elephants, who have been part of Thai culture for eons. Elephants consume between 6 and 10 percent of their body weight daily, and it costs around US$18,000 to look after a single animal for a year. There are currently around 3800 humanly cared for elephant tourist camps. But the collapse of international tourism due to COVID-19 has reportedly forced at least 85 elephant camps in northern Thailand to close, bringing hardship to the elephants, and their human handlers.

Human Elephant Learning

A solution is to invite an elephant to your next Zoom call. Rates start at US$75 to bring elephants in on a Zoom video call for 10 minutes; for US$145, callers also get a three-minute Q&A session with elephant experts. It is the idea of Australian welfare charity the Human Elephant Learning Program Foundation (H-ELP) and the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF), a non-profit that was set up in cooperation with the Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp and Resort.

This idea of remote interaction with a local is along the same lines of un-travel Discover Live, which we wrote about recently. Having an experience of going to a faraway place without the air travel is something we feel will become a large part of the future of travel. Not taking away from actual travel, because meeting an elephant in person is a truly unforgettable experience, but an experience that runs parallel to it. 

I have had the privilege of two highly memorable encounters with elephants — experiences that I will never forget. Having an elephant “smell” me, with its trunk acting as a vacuum hose over my entire body during a trip to Pakistan was amazing — utterly freaky, but once I got over it, magical. Then my new large friend and I got along swimmingly.

I’m wondering if we should invite an elephant to the next Happy Hour?


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David Stewart
David is the founder and face of AGEIST. He is an expert on, and a passionate champion of the emerging global over-50 lifestyle. A dynamic speaker, he is available for panels, keynotes and informational talks at david@agei.st.


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