Care & Welfare
Mahout Vocational Center
Located at the Elephant Conservation Center, the Mahout Vocational Center is a place where traditional knowledge relating to the elephant is conserved and transmitted to new generations of mahouts. The Center is a living learning school providing quality training to mahouts (elephant handlers) who are eager to change their career from logging to ecotourism.
The transfer of traditional knowledge (elephant purchase, control, care and husbandry, taming rituals, traditional medicine, etc.) to younger generations of mahouts is vital. In order to avoid losing an incredibly rich cultural heritage, ElefantAsia has established a Mahout Vocational Center at the Elephant Conservation Center. As with any initiative run by ElefantAsia, the idea of a "Mahout Vocational Center" comes directly from the mahout community itself.
Mahouts have requested assistance to find new ways to earn a living with their elephants, being fully aware of the risks of extinction threatening their elephants and their craft.
Providing mahouts with the necessary tools to work within the tourism industry would help to gather enthusiastic young mahouts at the school, who will eventually be hired by the tourism industry when their training is over. Today Mahouts have little self-esteem; they are considered as mere elephant drivers when, in fact, they possess an amazing knowledge of the forest and its inhabitants! Without the language barrier, mahouts could become tour guides themselves and increase their revenue substantially. This would in turn help keep their families in vibrant rural communities.
At the Vocational Center, trainees attend courses run by master mahouts from Hongsa. Subjects include humane elephant handling, positive reinforcement, first aid care, oestrus detection, control of musth elephants, diet, working hours & rest periods regulations, traditional medicine, foreign language, improvement of logging gear, improved howdahs designs, etc.
There is more information about the Vocational Center curriculum at the Centre in the Vet's Corner section (registration required).