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Positive Reinforcement Elephant Training in The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation

April 07, 2016 Target Training; Positive Reinforcement Elephant Training

In the old days when elephants were captured in the wild, they had their "spirits broken" to control them and make them responsive to commands. As most Asian elephants in today's world are born in a domesticated environment, the challenge is to train the elephant owners and mahouts the concept of positive reinforcement training. The concepts are like any other animal training exercise but elephants are considerably larger than most house pets. However, as we have said in the past, there are over 200 elephants in the small village of Moo Baan Chang, coming close to putting elephants in that category. Moo Baan Chang is on the radar screen as the next training ground. 
Doug Bahr, whom The Elephant Story sponsored as a recent intern in the GTAEF intern program, is shown above with Khun Boon and Dr. Dachar.  He made the film clip below of Poon Larp showing her stuff in this training effort. Khun Sophie serves as the "trainer" and Khun Doug as the "rewarder." The trainer gives the commands-the target is the tennis ball taped on a stick "target" that is gradually withdrawn as the elephant becomes accustomed to the process. "Target" is followed by the commands "side," "hand," "foot" and the release word "change." For those of us who learned to ride elephants using commands in Thai and Khmern, it is very strange to say something in English. Who would have thought elephants were multi-lingual. Poon Larp is now in the post- graduate program. 
As you can appreciate, it is particularly important to have an elephant freely present its foot for inspection given the critical nature of their foot care. The "rewarder" gives Poon Larp a handful of sunflower seeds to provide the positive reinforcement. It may sound like a simple process though revolutionary compared to the history of elephant training. 


Click on Video Below to see "Target Training" 

Elephants are a sacred symbol of royal power in Thailand. In the past, when discovered, they would be offered to the King to honor him. So accordingly, you can honor the special people in your lives by giving them this little piece of Thailand in a postcard.
The Postcard & Cut-out Statue is a set of Eco-design postcards that can be easily cut and folded into little elephant statues you can send to any part of the world. Made from recycled material, it comes in four different elephant designs that bring their recipients felicity, tenacity, longevity and prosperity. They come in these adorable vibrant colors that people of any age are sure to love. 

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