Thailand has fewer than 10,000 elephants left. More of them are living in captivity to serve the tourist industry under grim conditions than are living free in what is left of their wild habitat. Conservation efforts need to be focused on all surviving members of the species, captive and free, but they need to take into account the inextricable entanglement of human and nonhuman animal lives in Thailand today. There is an opportunity for rescuing, rehabilitating and reintroducing captive elephants to the wild with the help of the traditional expertise of a mahout culture that has been elephant-keeping for centuries. We advocate a state of wildness that is meaningful to the elephants and can be attained in a way in which both elephant and human cultures are valued. This would be far better than the status quo for the elephants, restoring to them a life worth living.

Author Biography

Liv Baker, conservation behaviorist and expert in wild animal welfare, explores similar patterns of wellbeing seen across the animal kingdom. Her work includes elephants, cetaceans, primates, arachnids, rodents, macropods, and pigs. Liv teaches at Hunter College, CUNY, and is the research director with Mahouts Elephant Foundation, UK. Website

Rebecca Winkler is a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania with interest in animal studies and multidisciplinary environmental justice. Rebecca consults for Mahouts Elephant Foundation on their ongoing projects. Website





Article Thread

Baker, Liv and Winkler, Rebecca (2020) Asian elephant rescue, rehabilitation and rewilding. Animal Sentience 28(1)

Kopnina, Helen (2020) Of elephants and men. Animal Sentience 28(2)

Pauketat, Janet VT (2020) A psychological perspective on elephant rewilding. Animal Sentience 28(4)

Lainé, Nicolas (2020) Anthropology and conservation. Animal Sentience 28(5)

Snijders, Lysanne (2020) Ecological and evolutionary dynamics of elephant rewilding. Animal Sentience 28(6)

Lorimer, Jamie and Rahmat, Khatijah (2020) Elephants at work. Animal Sentience 28(7)

Blumstein, Daniel T. and Lynch, Kate E. (2020) Innovative, yes: But is it rewilding?. Animal Sentience 28(8)

McGrew, William C. (2020) Practicalities of re-wilding. Animal Sentience 28(9)

Mehrkam, Lindsay R. and Fad, Otto (2020) Animal welfare science and “a life worth living” for wild and captive elephants. Animal Sentience 28(10)

Humphreys, Rebekah (2020) Philosophy, ecology and elephant equality. Animal Sentience 28(11)

Celermajer, Danielle (2020) Rethinking rewilding through multispecies justice. Animal Sentience 28(12)

Crist, Eileen (2020) Protecting nature, freeing beings. Animal Sentience 28(13)

Lee, Phyllis C. and Lindsay, W. Keith (2020) A “halfway house” for improving captive welfare. Animal Sentience 28(14)

Phalke, Sagarika (2020) Rewilding elephants: A solution or a potential problem?. Animal Sentience 28(15)

Wallach, Arian D.; Jasinghe, Sujeewa; Fernando, Sudarshani; and Rizzolo, Jessica Bell (2020) Compassionate conservation and elephant personhood. Animal Sentience 28(16)

Correia-Caeiro, Catia (2020) Rewilding and domestication: Clarifying terminology. Animal Sentience 28(17)

van de Water, Antoinette; Henley, Michelle; Bates, Lucy; and Slotow, Rob (2020) Future of Thailand's captive elephants. Animal Sentience 28(18)

Massiot, Elodie (2020) Challenging our conception of wildness. Animal Sentience 28(19)

Treves, Adrian (2020) Elephants and pandemics. Animal Sentience 28(20)

Baker, Liv (2020) Rewilding and mixed-community collaboration in conservation. Animal Sentience 28(21)