Unchained Elephants historic effort saves captive one-eyed bull elephant

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Kanoon, an old bull elephant chained next to a garbage dump for four years with scarce food and only one functioning eye was rescued by Unchained Elephants, paving the way for a brighter future in elephant conservation.

Chained up next to a garbage dump with scarce food and only one functioning eye, an old bull elephant named Kanoon endured four brutal years in captivity in Chiang Mai, Thailand. His plight was nothing short of devastating, emblematic of the harsh realities faced by many elephants in the region. However, Kanoon’s story took an extraordinary turn thanks to Unchained Elephants, a pioneering initiative that achieved the world’s first-ever tokenized elephant rescue, forever altering the landscape of elephant conservation funding.

This is was truly emotional moment when the team from Unchained Elephants releases the ghastly chain from Kanoon’s foot to set him free.

With unwavering dedication to breaking free from traditional constraints, Unchained Elephants harnessed the power of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) and Crowdfunding to not only unchain Kanoon but also pave the way for a brighter future in elephant conservation. The historic moment occurred on September 5 when Unchained Elephants successfully brought Kanoon to an ethical elephant sanctuary in Sukhothai, Thailand, known as Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary (BLES).



Unchained Elephants, founded by Daniel Villota, initially emerged as an NFT initiative in response to the challenges faced by elephants during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their mission was to use NFTs to raise funds for elephants that had become “unemployed” due to travel restrictions. During this phase, they successfully raised US$10,000, which provided essential care and food for eight elephants in various camps across Thailand. However, as COVID-19 restrictions eased and tourism resumed, so did elephant tourism, prompting Unchained Elephants to shift their focus to the pressing issue of rescuing elephants in dire conditions and educating travelers about the elephant tourism industry.

After he was loaded onto a truck, Kanoon is cooled down with water before embarking on a long and wet journey to his new home.

The turning point came when Kanoon, a 55-year-old male elephant living in deplorable conditions in Mae Tang, Chiang Mai, was brought to their attention by dedicated Thai animal activist Chayanan Assawadhammanond. After consulting with elephant experts and learning about Kanoon’s distressing situation, Unchained Elephants, led by Daniel Villota and Vicki Kiely, embarked on a daring rescue mission that began on June 24, 2023.

Kanoon passes through the Elephant Quarantine Check Point on his way to Sukhothai. The officials were extremely kind and helpful.

Kanoon’s heart-wrenching circumstances shed light on a broader issue: abandoned male elephants in Thailand, majestic creatures left to suffer without proper care or resources. With his owner unable to provide the necessary care, Kanoon faced a grim choice: the illegal logging industry or a slim chance at salvation. It was evident that intervention was imperative.


Unchained Elephants rallied to raise US$19,118 (650,000 baht), a sum that would secure Kanoon’s rescue and relocation to an ethical sanctuary. On August 15, 2023, at 10:55 p.m., their mission was accomplished. Kanoon’s rescue represents more than a single remarkable success; an astounding US$19,495 (662,852 baht) was raised to save this bull elephant, with 60% from Crowdfunding and 40% through leveraging Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) on the XRPL.

The challenging rescue journey from Chiang Mai to Sukhothai lasted 13 grueling hours, many of them in the middle of a thunderstorm storm.

Unchained Elephants’ first elephant rescue mission, which spanned from June 24th to September 5th, demanded funding, meticulous planning, unwavering determination, and invaluable support from partners. Kanoon’s status as a bull elephant posed unique challenges, causing many sanctuaries to hesitate due to the distinctive requirements of caring for male elephants. Undeterred, Unchained Elephants persisted until BLES – Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary – generously offered to provide Kanoon with a forever home in Sukhothai, Thailand.



The challenging rescue journey, beginning on September 5, lasted 13 grueling hours amidst a storm while moving Kanoon from Chiang Mai to Sukhothai. Despite the difficulties, the Unchained Elephants and BLES team remained determined and successfully accomplished this tough task. Kanoon’s arrival at BLES signifies not just his freedom from a life of suffering but also the start of a brighter future for elephant well-being.

A happy Kanoon is seen socializing with the rest of the elephant herd at Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary in Sukhothai.

“This rescue mission combines the power of new technology with real-world impact, benefiting not only elephants but also other causes around the world. It leverages digital assets that not only do good but also build a strong and committed community around the cause,” said Daniel Villota, founder of Unchained Elephants. “We are really grateful to our partners (Vicki Kiely and BLES), our sponsors (Hyatt Regency Phuket, Stay Wellbeing Resort & The Beach Resort Koh Samui), and every individual who contributed to making this rescue a reality. We could not have done this without all of you supporting us. Our commitment to educating travelers and promoting ethical elephant tourism to have a bigger impact remains unwavering as well as looking forward to our next rescue.”



About Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary (BLES)

Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary (BLES) stands as a shining example of an ethical elephant sanctuary, situated in the historical city of Sukhothai, Thailand. Founded by Katherine Connor, it offers rescued elephants a safe and joyful home where they can live like elephants – roaming freely, socializing, and finding their own food. Travelers are welcome to visit BLES and enjoy a unique elephant experience that benefits both the animals and themselves.

Kanoon adapts to his new life at BLES doing fun things that elephants like to do, like rubbing a tree and mud bathing.

About Unchained Elephants Project & Mission

Unchained Elephants is a transformative initiative that leverages the power of NFTs to support elephant welfare. Initially conceived to aid unemployed elephants during the pandemic, it has evolved into a project dedicated to rescuing elephants from harsh conditions. This endeavor offers a unique combination of digital membership (NFT ownership), travel benefits, and elephant-friendly practices. Additionally, supporters/donors will receive a certificate of adoption from the rescued elephants in the form of an NFT, fostering a lasting bond with these majestic creatures.

After years of brutal captivity, Kanoon is free to happily roam the fields in Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary.

But there’s more to it than that. Through the tokenization of elephants, they raise both funds and awareness, enabling supporters to enjoy discounts on experiences in Thailand. Their commitment extends to educating travelers and directing proceeds toward elephant rescue and relocation, ushering in a new era of responsible tourism and compassionate change. In the coming weeks and months, Unchained Elephants will focus on raising funds for Kanoon’s care at BLES, continue to educate travelers & promote ethical elephant tourism, and scout for captive elephants in need of rescuing.



To follow Kanoon’s journey to recovery, see our future elephant rescue missions and stay updated on our ongoing efforts to protect and care for elephants, please visit our website at www.unchainedelephants.com and connect with us on social media INSTAGRAM or subscribe to our YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/@unchainedelephants.






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