Karen – Elephant keeper in the North of Thailand

  • In Thailand overall around 1 million people
  • Unique language, unique culture
  • Centuries-old tradition of living together with elephants
  • Mainly live in the mountains – rice cultivation

Elephants and people live together

If one aims to establish an elephant project in Northern Thailand, the path almost always involves the Karen people. A centuries-old tradition connects people with the animals – indeed, they are often referred to as family members.

Ethnologically speaking, Karen is an umbrella term that encompasses several groups. The Karen language is unrelated to the Thai language and has its origins in the Himalayan region. The Karen settled in the area of our elephant camp approximately 100 years ago.

We visit the Mae Sapok village together with our guests to give you an insight into the lifestyle of our colleagues and friends. The Karen are very social people; often, an entire family lives in a single space. As traditional rice farmers, they have settled in Thailand at elevations up to 1200 meters. While houses were predominantly made of bamboo in earlier years, in recent times, wood and stone buildings have also become established.

Nowadays, tourism plays a significant role. However, we ensure that visiting doesn’t feel like watching a performance; we strive for authenticity. The village we visit isn’t a showcase village; the people live in their homes and are happy to present their way of life.