This International Women’s Day (March 8), we’re celebrating Dee Kenyon, our Elephant Venue Project Manager in Thailand. She helped an elephant venue transition from low welfare conditions, where elephants were chained up 23 hours a day and released only for tourists to ride, bathe or directly feed them – to one of observation only where the elephants are free to be elephants
"Dee gradually built up chain free time with the elephants, one hour at a time. At first they didn’t know what to do and they just stood there."
Who is Dee?
Dee Kenyon, 46, is an Elephant Venue Project Manager in Thailand. Dee lives with her best friend, an eight-year-old adopted English bulldog, Mister Bubba the Garnuch, in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Dee is 154cms tall and she jokes that she is the size of a chihuahua but with mighty, great dreams.
Dee Kenyon and her dog
What does Dee do to protect animals?
Dee worked with ChangChill, an elephant venue in Thailand, to move away from tourist activities such as elephant rides, washing and feeding directly to one of observation only where the elephants can do as they please.
Dee worked with the venue for six months prior to the transition, overseeing the building of the tourist observation deck and other facilities to accommodate the observational only experience. She also worked with the mahouts (elephant carers) on the new guidelines.
Dee sitting near elephants at an elephant-friendly venue
She then worked for another six months with the owner, connecting the venue up with some of the highly committed elephant friendly tour operators that have signed our elephant-friendly pledge
Dee also works with other elephant venues in Thailand to ensure they are supported from donations given by World Animal Protection supporters at a time when the tourist industry has stopped.
What was the issue?
Prior to this, the six female elephants at ChangChill were chained up for 23 hours a day when there were no tourists. They swayed from side to side and showed stereotypical captive behaviours which are a sign of stress.Elephants do not display these behaviours in the wild.
What was the result for the elephants?
Dee gradually built up chain free time with the elephants, one hour at a time. At first they didn’t know what to do and they just stood there. As chain free time increased, they became a lot more relaxed and content – they flapped their ears and would roam around and graze.
The ‘wow’ moment for Dee when she realised her work was coming to fruition was when one of the elephants used her trunk to grab the grass off of the ground and smash it on her front leg. They were beginning to be like elephants again.
Dee Kenyon observing elephants at their feeding station at ChangChill
We’re so grateful for Dee and all the other female animal protectors around the world – today, on International Women’s Day, and every other day of the year.
Overcoming awful animal cruelty
Elephants are wild animals. They are not domesticated, as some believe.
Prior to arriving at ChangChill, all the elephants will have gone through a cruel training method called ‘the crush’. This breaks their spirit and allows them to be handled.
The process involves calves being taken from their mothers, isolated, and left without food and water. Beatings and intense trauma break their wild spirit and terrify them into obedience.
How can you help?
Help end this cruel practice by only visiting genuine sanctuaries and elephant-friendly venues.