Dani the elephant was born in the mid-1960's, most likely along the Thailand-Burma border where she spent most of her life working in illegal logging camps. Throughout her time in the logging industry, the forests that she worked in were plagued with violence due to long-running civil wars in the region. Though she made it out in one piece, many elephants in the forests were shot or maimed by landmines.
In 2010, a new wave of violence erupted in the region and Dani's owner was forced to flee into the inner cities of Thailand where he planned to sell her to be used as a street begging elephant. Luckily, Dani's story found its way to some Western Volunteers who just happened to be in the area helping refugees. These volunteers took it upon themselves to find a home for Dani where she would no longer have to work or beg for change on the street. Thankfully, their efforts resulted in Dani finding not only a home but also a herd to spend her days with. She currently lives at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand and is finally free from her life of abuse.
Dani's story brings to life a very real problem that elephants in South East Asia face. Unlike their African cousins, Asian Elephants are in more danger of abuse at the hands of humans than they are of poaching. Their ivory is seen to be of less value than that of African Elephants and, while poaching does still sometimes occur in the region, this makes them much less of a target to poachers.
Over the past few centuries, elephants have become a staple in Southeast Asian Culture and have been utilized as part of many labor forces due to their size and intelligence. Today, utilizing elephants for physical labor is illegal in most parts of the world but that doesn't mean that they're safe. Elephants that live in human care in Southeast Asia still face plenty of abuse at the hands of humans.
The elephant tourism industry is one of the main culprits of this. Unethical elephant training management is very much so prevalent and is fueled by both greed and ignorance. That being said, there are also very many ethical ways to have an elephant experience in these regions so we ask that you please do your homework when deciding to support any person or business that profits from elephants.
With the human population growing as rapidly as it has, and with no signs of it slowing down, the elephants' natural habitat is growing smaller and smaller every day. Due to this, they often find themselves in towns and villages while foraging for food. This often leads to violence by the local population in order to deter the elephants from ever returning.
Occasionally, a herd of elephants will wander onto a farm, eating and trampling whatever crops they may find. It doesn't take a scientist to say that this has a very negative effect on the livelihood of local farmers. A herd of elephants can completely destroy a crop responsible for one's entire annual income in minutes. It's because of this that many elephants find themselves the targets of retribution killings by these farmers and villagers.
The key to elephants and humans living side by side is education. By educating the populations of elephant range countries in how to properly handle interacting with elephants and their continued importance, we can minimize the effect that humans have on wild elephants in an attempt to mitigate human-elephant conflict. Organizations like Asian Elephant Support and The International Elephant Foundation have made great strides in putting together programs around the world that aim at educating children and adults alike in conflict mitigation. It's through programs like this that we may finally see a safer world for elephants.