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Projects with Education, Travel, and Research Sponsorships

Conservation Education with Think Elephants International

Chris Reifschneider

Think Elephants International (TEI) is a non-profit organization that aims to conserve Asian elephants through scientific research and education programs. TEI's founder, Joshua Plotnik, PhD, has been studying elephant cognition for the past few years. Two of his most notable studies scientifically prove that elephants can self-recognize, and are capable of complex cooperation.

Last year, TEI started an after school club for middle school students in New York City that taught students the scientific research process, as well as the importance of environmental conservation. Through the use of Skype, these students saw what life was like for elephants and their mahouts (caretakers) in Thailand. This club also had several guest speakers, and took a field trip to the National Zoo to get an up close and personal experience with the elephants.

Because this was such a success, TEI is looking to expand their program globally. They will especially focus on implementing the program in Thai schools, as young Thais have great potential for conserving their elephants and their environment. These students will get a full understanding of the complex situation that many Asian countries are facing by focusing on topics ranging from culture and language, to perceptions of animal welfare and conservation interests. Through this experience and education, these students will be better prepared to deal with the issues surrounding Thailand and its environment when it is their turn to make the decisions.

AES awarded TEI $2,000 for the purchase of an Apple computer and a television that will be used in Thai schools to help educate students about the importance of elephant conservation. Part of AES's mission statement is to increase awareness of the needs and future of the Asian elephant, as well as to provide educational opportunities to those persons who care for captive Asian elephants in range countries. We are very excited by the potential TEI has to positively shape the future of captive and wild elephants and the people with whom they share land.

For more information regarding TEI, please visit their website at: www.thinkelephants.com.