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LIFE Elephant Heritage Area

LIFE Elephant Heritage Area

Guided wildlife walks
Guided wildlife walks
Visual or performance art

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Situated in over 90,000 acres of luscious protected rainforest near the border between Thailand and Myanmar, Living In the Forest with Elephants (LIFE) is dedicated to preserving the magnificent forest and caring for the rescued elephants that call it home.

The village is small with only around twenty households and it shares a stunning forest with 6 other villages. Without a source of income, people from this village were forced to sell their beloved elephants to the tourism industry. Thanks to the project the captive elephants have now been returned, roaming freely through the forests being checked on by their mahouts once a week or daily if they feel the need.

Species or habitat details

The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), also known as the Asiatic elephant, is a species of elephant distributed throughout the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, from India in the west, Nepal in the north, Sumatra in the south, and to Borneo in the east (Wikipedia). The Asian elephant is the largest living land animal in Asia, and one of only three living species worldwide.


Listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List since 1986, the Asian elephant population has declined by at least 50 per cent over the last three elephant generations. It is primarily threatened by loss of habitat, habitat degradation, fragmentation and poaching.

In Thailand and other countries in Southeast Asia, it is common to find elephant riding experiences at tourist hotspots. Such trips are listed on prestigious travel websites and images of global tourists taking part are ubiquitous on social media. Sadly, this form of tourism encourages both animal cruelty and wildlife crime, which, in tandem with other factors, is driving the Asian elephant towards extinction.

Did you know?

Our elephant Mokijue's name in the Karen language means Funny Leg, this is because her left leg has a slight deformity. This does not impede on her life or her ability to move around her forest home. She is the matriarch of the LIFE herd.

Mokimae is the daughter of Mokijue and is protected and safe thanks to the project and work of the foundation. Her name in the Karen language means funny tail, due to a unique kink in her tail.

Ya Bu is in his early thirties and was donated to MEF in 2019 by a group of dedicated monks who wanted to offer him a new life of peace in the forest. Released from a working life, he is free to forage all day and eating is his greatest pleasure!

Mur Lah is the daughter of Mokijue and sister of Mokimae - she is the newest member of the 'LIFE' family. Her name in the Karen language means HOPE.

We work with a unique safari-style model of elephant tourism in direct partnership with mahouts, empowering them with the tools they require to support their families and their elephants in their home village.

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Why visit a Wildlife Heritage Area?


Visitors to Wildlife Heritage Areas can take part in outstanding wildlife watching experiences that put wildlife first. Staying in a Wildlife Heritage Area helps local communities invest in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, benefitting community well-being and driving forward sustainable practices.

Designated for excellence

Communities achieve Wildlife Heritage Area designation by playing a central role in protecting wild animals and their habitats. With support from responsible travel organisations and wildlife experts, these communities are committed to help turn the tide on biodiversity loss and the climate crisis, adopt a zero tolerance for wildlife suffering in tourism, and advocate for positive change through a willingness to collaborate.


Koo Nu's story

Koo Nu's story

Koo Nu returned to his village to settle down with his wife and applied to begin apprenticing as a mahout with the foundation. As his skills have grown, so has his passion for elephant care, conservation, and youth empowerment. Koo Nu came to our leadership team with a dream of starting a mentorship program to provide opportunities for other young people like himself who may...

Living In the Forest with Elephants (LIFE)

Living In the Forest with Elephants (LIFE)

Living In the Forest With Elephants (LIFE) - a sustainable tourism model LIFE is the foundation’s central project through which we successfully developed a community-based tourism model that is economically sustainable, socially just, and environment and elephant friendly! First started in 2018, LIFE was steadily progressing towards self-sustainablity in 2019 and was a central...

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Field course: Asian Elephants in Context: Animal behaviour and conservation in Thailand

Field course: Asian Elephants in Context: Animal behaviour and conservation in Thailand

Course Information Asian Elephants in Context: Animal Behaviour and Conservation in Thailand is a 4 week field course that offers university students the opportunity to join an ongoing research project studying the behavior and ecology of re-wilded Asian elephants in their natural habitat. By promoting a multispecies approach to conservation, this course not only improves outcomes for animals and the environment, but also recognizes the interconnectedness of human health and well-being.