Liv Baker and Rebecca Winkler, Asian elephant rescue, rehabilitation and rewilding


It is certainly time to aim for higher quality management strategies for Thailand’s captive elephants, and to engage with sustainable livelihoods for traditional mahouts. Baker & Winkler’s proposal to rewild Thai elephants by placing them under the guardianship of Karen mahouts is recognized as not “wild” since it remains a form of management requiring elephants to live under the control of human caregivers. We applaud the positive welfare aims of this proposal; however, we caution that few of the long-term consequences for elephants or habitats can be known, and further considerations of elephant population dynamics and forest ecosystems are required if these proposals are to be successful for conservation and elephant welfare.

Author Biography

Phyllis Lee is the Director of Science for the Amboseli Trust for Elephants, and Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the University of Stirling. She has studied behavioural ecology of wild African elephants for almost 30 years. She has also been active in issues involving captive welfare in the UK. Website

W. Keith Lindsay is a conservation biologist and environmental consultant based in Oxford, UK, and affiliated with the Amboseli Trust for Elephants. He has over 40 years’ professional experience with elephants as well as natural resource policy and practice. His interests include wild ecology and captive welfare of elephants across Africa, Asia and North America. Website