Overlooking the stunning beauty where Thailand, Myanmar and Laos converge at the legendary Mekong River, Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort creates a sanctuary not only for guests wishing for a serene, picturesque escape, but also for twenty two rescued ex-street elephants.
This serene setting is home to the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF), where taking care of these gentle giants and assisting visitors to achieve a greater appreciation for pachyderms is Dr Nissa Mututanont, head elephant veterinarian.
Established in 2003 as a traditional mahout village, the elephant camp works alongside the GTAEF to perform street rescues, provide employment and a comfortable lifestyle for its elephant residents and their entire mahout families. To date, the camp has rescued more than 50 elephants and now supports more than 20 elephants and 50 people.
Working with their mahouts, or handlers, Nissa oversees the care and wellbeing of all the elephants living at the GTAEF. She ensures that they receive proper nutrition and medical attention, whilst the animals enjoy acres of land to roam, play, and forage.
“Guests get the chance to witness the playful personality and character of these beautiful animals that I see every day, and we hope they’ll go home with a better understanding of what we are doing here at the foundation.”
At any time of day, Nissa and the elephants can be spotted in action from the vantage point of private balconies and verandas overlooking the vast grounds. “With the creation of responsible elephant experiences, I can help to educate guests about the realities of living with elephants in captivity,” says Nissa.
Nissa’s journey to Anantara Golden Triangle began in a much more urban environment. Born in Thailand before moving to New York City with her family, Nissa always had a love for animals. Nissa attended the State University of New York at Stony Brook before graduating from the veterinary school at Khon Kaen University in 2015. After graduation, she was offered this unique opportunity at the GTAEF.
One of the newer training techniques employed by Nissa is Positive Reinforcement Target Training. Using a target (a padded stick), Nissa touches the elephant to encourage it to move its body to meet the target. Once the elephant does as she indicates, an assistant rewards him or her with their favourite treat, such as sunflower seeds. Through this positive reinforcement, elephants learn to present parts of their body, such as for a nail trimming or a blood test, for safe treatment.
“Positive Target Training Reinforcement is one of the most important parts of my work, to date we have reached over 400 mahouts and the speed at which the new techniques have been adopted by mahouts is so uplifting to see,” enthused Nissa.
The elephant experiences at Anantara Golden Triangle offer a perfect way to witness the marvelous relationship Nissa has with the elephants and their mahouts. During Walking with Giants, guests take a stroll around the impressive grounds, at a pace set by the elephants, while Nissa answers unlimited questions or relates stories about daily life at the elephant camp.
With the Elephant Learning Experience, Nissa focusses more on education, discussing elephant biology and behaviours and their mahouts, as well as the various conservation efforts at the GTAEF, followed by the chance to hand feed and bathe some of the younger elephant residents.
To learn more about Nissa and her elephants or any of the elephant experiences, contact Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort at firstname.lastname@example.org or +66 53 784 084.