Elephants & Mahouts Thailand Photography Project

Carol Stevenson in partnership with Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation

Elephants & Mahouts from Carol Stevenson on Vimeo.

The Story

Famed for their memory and intelligence elephants have long been a symbol of wisdom in Asian cultures. Herbivores elephants spend up to 16 hours a day eating plants. Their diet, which is seasonal and greatly influenced by their habitat, can be leaves, bark, tree fruits, shrubs along with grasses and herbs. Since elephants digest only 40% of what they eat they must make up their system’s deficiency by eating volume. Asian elephants play an important part in everyday life in Thailand as well as other countries such as India, Sri Lanka Indonesia and Borneo

Mahouts are the elephant owners and their sustenance and livelihood depends on their elephants. As a young boy in the “family business”, a mahout is assigned an elephant early in its life and they are to be attached to each other throughout the elephant’s life. The elephant’s well-being directly affects the mahout’s quality of life and vice versa.

Today the Asian elephant is an endangered species in Thailand declining from 100,000 in 1850 to 2,500 of which half are considered domesticated (under human provisioning and control) and the remaining ones are wild. Asian elephant decline has been mainly caused by habitat loss and destruction. Climate changes have made the elephant’s habitat hotter and drier making foraging poor and threatening calves survival. Deforestation and human destruction by people taking more and more of the elephant’s habitat along with poaching are risks for Asian elephants.

Thailand has recently put in place a government ban on the traditional use of elephants in logging and transportation which has increased the threat to the current elephant population. The logging ban has left the elephant owners (mahouts) with few options to make a living to provide for both their family and their elephant The Mahouts tradition is unique in Human/Animal relations and the Mahout community are an irreplaceable living cultural treasure.

Breakfast with Meena & Friends from Carol Stevenson on Vimeo.

Carol Stevenson (The Elephant Photographer)

Carol Stevenson is a fine art, travel and nature photographer whose love of travel has taken her to remote regions of the world. Her latest work features portraiture of the Asian elephant, a conservation project in conjunction with the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation in northern Thailand, with a goal to raise awareness of the species through her photography.


In addition to her Asian elephant portraits, Carol is working on a documentary film called Elephant Spirits. She resides in the Bay Area.

Elephant Spirits from Carol Stevenson on Vimeo.

How You Can Help

Awareness and education are always the forerunners to change. Firsthand experience is available by visiting GTAEF sponsors of the Mahout Program and participating in the everyday care of the elephants. Travels with Teri arranges visits and program participation.

Fine art giclee prints of the elephants can be purchased by contacting Carol Stevenson via email carol@carolstevenson.com

Donations for Elephant Spirits, a conservation documentary, may be made by contacting Carol Stevenson via email carol@carolstevenson.com or calling 650-766 6314.