“Born in rural Devon John set about following a typical English career path; too serious in school, not serious enough in college he scraped into a Materials Science and Engineering Degree at Bath University. Fairly early on it became clear that, noble and important as Materials Scientists are, John’s future was not going to involve sitting in a basement breaking things.
Nevertheless, he finished what he started and came away with a not-too-bad degree and a need to escape what he considered an overcrowded island.
Growing up in a rural atmosphere had engendered an interest in the natural world and so contacts were borrowed and a volunteer placement in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park in the desert of West Texas was secured, a year was spent there fighting fires, making trails and enjoying the stars.
Next move was the even more remote parks of Northern Australia and a year lighting fires, driving trails and enjoying the peace and quiet.
A knowledge of fire as a habitat management tool and a proven ability to live in the jungle without going too mad landed John a month long volunteer placement at Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge in Chitwan National Park, Nepal where he stayed for five years. Helping with the International Trust for Nature Conservation’s tiger research and other projects, guiding elephant and Land Rover safari’s, doing more and more hotel based work and being granted over 50 tiger sightings.
By a couple of fluke meetings John heard of a new elephant camp being set up in a luxury Resort in the North of Thailand, the owners apparently were looking to not only make sure that the elephants were well looked after but they were also looking for some elephant sensitive activities that set them apart from other camps in Thailand as well as do some conservation work for the Thai herd in general.
The e-mail John sent pointing out that about the only thing his previous experience had prepared him for was this must have landed on the right desk, on the right day after the right number of coffees. The owners took a risk on a foreign elephant camp manager and the rest is history.
John is a trustee of the English Registered Charity the International Trust for Nature Conservation (www.itnc.org) and acts as Director of the Thai registered Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (www.helpingelephants.org), he has contributed articles to publications as diverse as Bird Conservation Nepal and Land Rover Monthly.
The elephant camps at Anantara and Four Seasons Tented Camp have gained worldwide television and press coverage, awards for Sustainable Tourism and Animal Welfare and, together with the Foundation, provide more than twenty-five elephants, their mahouts and their mahouts’ families with a living.
Through collaborations with sister charities and Universities the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation now pushes to research as many aspects as possible of elephants and their role in Asian jungles, helps protect wild elephants in Thailand and is growing wild elephant projects in Cambodia and, thanks the company’s partnership with Elewana Collection in Kenya & Tanzania, is getting a handle on African conservation too.
Since November 2012 John’s role has expanded to include ‘Conservation Activities’ for all Anantara hotels a change that has forced him to learn a lot about marine biology and many different ecosystems in order to bring the detailed, scientific conservation approach learned with elephants in the Golden Triangle to other species and habitats – most notably marine turtles and reef ecosystems.
His current role has also forced him to break out the old engineering text books, advising the rapidly growing Anantara group on sustainable operation in regards their direct environment as well as reducing their energy and water usage.