The Elephant Project

The situation surrounding elephant tourism in Thailand is dire. People visit tourist parks and camps to interact with the majestic animals, unaware of the effect this trade has on the elephants themselves. The Elephant Project explores the tourists desire to visit these attractions, whilst learning about the ethically focused parks, such as Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary, who put the elephants first and seek to educate their guests on the problems elephant tourism causes. Their sanctuary offers a unique approach to elephant tourism in Thailand, integrating the local Karen hill tribe village they live amongst, to provide an ethically focussed experience.

  • Henry Bettany
  • Fergus Hatton
  • Aled Williams
  • Henry Bettany
  • Fergus Hatton
  • Aiden Hyland
  • Harvey Oldroyd
  • Jacob Maud
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Student
  • Runtime:
    17 minutes 20 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    December 5, 2021
  • Production Budget:
    1,800 GBP
  • Country of Origin:
    United Kingdom
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
    Yes - Northern Film School
Director Biography - Henry Bettany, Fergus Hatton

Fergus is a 24 year old filmmaker based in Leeds, currently studying MA Documentary at the Northern Film School. He has created short films for over ten years, typically for the YouTube format however following completion of a filmmaking degree at university, has moved into a more professional space, directing many commercial projects recently. His first documentary, shot overseas in Thailand, focusses on the problems of elephant tourism and is currently completing its festival circuit. Fergus has a great interest in environmental filmmaking and is keen to develop his work further in this genre.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

I first came across the concept of elephant tourism whilst backpacking in Thailand during the summer of 2017. Doing research into where to visit to gain an authentic experience, I learnt about the unethical parks and shows located across the country. Having researched thoroughly, I visited an ethically focussed sanctuary that rescues Elephants from labour and tourism camps from across Thailand.
During my visit, I had the opportunity to see the elephants up close and learn about the problems of elephant tourism in the world, in Asia in particular. Their message of education being key to helping the elephants and reducing the impact elephant tourism was something that stuck with me after my visit. Over the rest of my time in Thailand and the months following the trip, I was formulating the idea for a documentary that would highlight the role of the tourist and educate people on the topic.
In 2019, myself and a crew of talented filmmakers visited the Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary in the north of Thailand to live amongst the locals of the karen village in which the sanctuary is located. We learnt first hand from Kerri Mcrea and others at the sanctuary about the issues elephants face and the human impacts of the industry. The sanctuary operates in a natural approach, allowing the elephants to roam over huge areas of forest as they would in the wild. Upon our return to Chiang Mai, we visited an elephant camp to capture the contrast of approaches and it really drilled home the need to educate people and show people the differences in elephant experiences they could be receiving. Elephants kept in pens barely bigger than themselves, coerced into playing football for a crowds amusement and moved around using chains and bull hooks. It was an unsettling experience and really motivated us further into getting that message across in the film.
We all hope that our film can help educate people on the issues of elephant tourism and get people to research further into the experiences they’re attending and support those with an ethical focus, treating the elephants how they should be treated.