Carol Buckley founded Elephant Aid International (EAI) in November 2009 to improve the lives of elephants and the people who live and work with them through education, advocacy and hands-on assistance.
EAI began its work in Southeast Asia, where elephants and humans have a long history of coexistence. For centuries, elephants have had a role in religion, economics, tribal life and, more recently, tourism.
Today, however, the major question is whether elephants have a place in rapidly developing nations in the twenty-first century.
On the one hand, they are revered as gods, honored as a national heritage animal and protected as an endangered species.
On the other, wild elephants compete with humans for limited land and food resources. Captive elephants live lives of misery, subject to centuries-old abusive training methods and daily deprivation, whether they bless devotees at temples, give tourists rides or beg on city streets.
By working in partnership with governments and NGOs, EAI has proven that change is possible. Asian governments are grappling with how elephants and people can coexist in a rapidly developing world, opening the door to new possibilities.
EAI is unique in its ability to bring about change both immediate and long term. It is effective because it starts with a deep respect for culture and the realities of life for elephants in Asia.
By offering hands-on care such as pedicures, teaching humane training methods, improving stable hygiene and designing and building solar powered chain-free corrals, EAI quickly makes the lives of captive elephants better.
EAI builds sustainability into its work in two ways: first, by partnering with respected NGOs and, second, by ensuring that mahouts (elephant handlers) and elephant owners have the knowledge and resources they need to maintain the improvements.
Then, by advocating for the needs of elephants with governments – national, state and local – EAI makes long-term change through laws, regulations and policies.
In the US, EAI is starting a new chapter in the care of captive elephants with its establishment of Elephant Refuge North America (ERNA). ERNA will build on the latest scientific advances, the experience of both accredited elephant sanctuaries and its experience in Asia to create a new model for care in captivity.
EAI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization
EAI sees a world in which society respects elephants and provides environments in which they can not only survive but flourish. Elephants who live in semi-wild and wild environments would be free of human harassment and exploitation; elephants in captivity would live as humane and natural a life as possible.
- EAI melds knowledge, experience and vision into innovative solutions.
- EAI has one agenda: improving the lives of elephants and the people who live and work with them.
- EAI brings together everyone who cares about elephants—biologists, mahouts, scientists, researchers, veterinarians, educators, caregivers, progressive zoo professionals and elephant enthusiasts.
- Improve the conditions of captivity in which elephants live and eliminate abusive training and management styles.
- Demonstrate alternatives to the use of chaining as a form of management.
- Train mahouts in positive management techniques so they can better care for and manage their elephants.
- Improve the social status of mahouts through education and job advancement.
- Remove begging elephants from the streets of Asia by finding alternative livelihoods for mahouts and their families.
- Facilitate the establishment of lifetime care centers (sanctuaries) across Asia.