The first was Condé Nast Traveler’s 2012 World Savers Awards, which celebrates support of local communities and the protection of our precious planet. The hilltop retreat won the top Wildlife Award and was runner up in the Preservation Section. The second, the 2012 HICAP Sustainable Hotel Awards, recognizes Asia Pacific hotels that demonstrate exemplary environmental and cultural best practices. The resort won the Sustainable Destinations category. The third, the Hospitality Eco Friendly Green Resort/Hotel 2012 Silver Magellan Award, wasmade by Travel Weekly.
The resort’s eco achievements include recycled wood and locally sourced materials to refurbish pre-existing buildings, tree planting and wastewater treatment initiatives, as well as enforcement of non-hunting and fishing regulations to create a haven for native species.
The resort’s Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF) was set up in 2005 to rescue Thailand’s street elephants. The onsite Elephant Camp is now run as a unique scheme whereby the elephant and mahout are rented at a steady income in return for participating in Camp activities. Owners of animals who cannot work, such as babies, pregnant females and those who have suffered injuries, are also paid.
Working closely with the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre (TECC), safety, care and activities all exceed national and international standards. Elephants are guaranteed fodder, shelter and insurance. The mahout and his family receive food, housing, medical insurance, English lessons and schooling for their children, while mahout wives receive 100% of the profits from a traditional silk weaving business.
The Elephant Camp now supports more than 30 elephants and 60 people, and is fully self sufficient. In addition to elephant activities, funds are sourced via charitable guest donations as well as the annual King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament, which funded the world’s first ever Thai Elephant Therapy Project for autistic children.
The resort is also working with Cambridge University on research into elephant intelligence. Elephants are empathetic and know why they have to cooperate with their mahouts. The hope: By studying their behavior, scientists will better understand how elephants interact not only with mahouts but in the wild.