Timeline of the Help Foundation Beginnings

2007 – It all began.

In 2007, Dr Andrew McLean was demonstrating the use of evidence-based horse training techniques in Tammisaari, Finland. Prior to this, a Finnish science journalist, Helena Telkanranta, had been working on a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) project in Nepal and returned home to Finland determined to improve and modernise the foundation training of working elephants there. Helena attended Andrew’s clinic in Tammisaari and invited him to contribute to her newly established training project in Chitwan Nepal in 2007 with a view to adapting his horse-friendly methods to help working elephants and their handlers. In order to gain insights into the general behaviour of the Asian elephant (and to feel comfortable with these giants), Laurie Pond who was training elephants at Melbourne Zoo at that time (he is now at Australia Zoo) offered to familiarise Andrew with the zoo’s elephants. Andrew showed Laurie his envisioned training program and thus began their collaboration. Andrew and Laurie joined forces on many trips to Nepal under Helena’s project leadership (then known as Working Elephant Programs of Asia or WEPA).

2008 – The H-ELP Method Is Proven

In 2008, the Nepalese government was shown videos of the program’s success in Chitwan and asked for a 5-year pilot study to be undertaken on the training of just one elephant. The government was so impressed that we were given an entire working elephant camp at Bardia in southwest Nepal which had 5 young elephants to train. The outcomes for these young elephants were excellent and so the Nepalese government asked for the training to be rolled out across Nepal. Because of confusions with elephant polo, the name WEPA changed to Elephant Experts and this organisation continues to manage the training in Nepal and to focus on general elephant management. Andrew and Laurie could see the need for ongoing, specialised training and sought to develop an Australian based not-for-profit company.

2010 – The H-ELP Foundation is born.

Thus in 2010 the HELP foundation was born.

2014 – Our first manual is published

In 2014 Andrew wrote an elephant training manual to give young elephants a start based on a variant of the neuroscience of animal cognition and learning that he distilled from his PhD studies at the University of Melbourne. This first practical use of these principles with elephants was in 2007 in Nepal and today the training program remains much the same. HELP published the manual which has since been translated into Malayalam, Assamese, Hindi, Thai and Burmese and is variously entitled Elephant-Friendly Training for Working Elephants, Hasthisiksha and How to Train Elephants. Those interested in training will find this interesting to read and it is available on kindle: HELP’s workshops are conducted in India, Thailand and Myanmar and we have unanimously received positive feedback. We are now the official training partners for the Wildlife Trust of India, the National Elephant Institute of Thailand and the Myanmar Timber Enterprises (the largest owners of elephants the world).

2016 – The H-ELP Foundation Expands

We expanded into Thailand and Myanmar.

2017 – We are ACNC Certified  and attain DGR status

WA huge milestone for help, we are registered for the ACNC, and subsequently certified by the Australian Tax Office with Deductible Gift Recipient Status (1).

2018 – Our head trainer Dr. Andrew McLean is accepted as a member of the AsESG

A peak body for Asian elephant conservation, the invitation and acceptance of Dr. McLean was a huge milestone for the Foundation as a whole.

2018 – We commence work in Laos

In January of 2018, we have begun operations for the first time in Laos, finding the quality of conservation projects already established to be some of the highest quality we have had to date.

Into the future:

HELP’s commitment is to not only improve the lives of working elephants but to also significantly contribute to the safety and lives of mahouts across the world. We believe that knowledge provides confidence and security and that these outcomes provide flow-on benefits to the wellbeing of these people and their families.


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