The Elephant Project Continues its Mission

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   February 7, 2023
Montecito-based Kristina McKean continues her philanthropic mission to save elephants

Kristina McKean, founder of the philanthropic toy company The Elephant Project, is proud to share that she has returned from a life-changing, successful journey to Chiang Mai, Thailand. She just completed a visit to the source of her company’s initial inspiration, Elephant Nature Park. 

McKean crossed the globe to meet the world-renowned sanctuary’s staff and its impressive herd of ethically rescued elephants, many of whom The Elephant Project has played a role in helping save. By donating 100% of the company’s net sales to global rescue efforts, elephant sanctuaries including Elephant Nature Park, orphanages, and other aligned organizations that are carrying out this powerful shared vision on the ground, McKean and her all-female team have contributed to the rescue, recovery, and rehabilitation of hundreds of elephants worldwide.

McKean and her daughter embarked on the mission-driven visit on January 6 to connect in person with some of the conservation leaders who are driving these initiatives forward on a global scale. During last month’s visit, they also had the opportunity to meet the beloved Baby Chaba, a rescued baby elephant and the real-world living counterpart to The Elephant Project’s newest SaveUs(TM) collection mini plushie that is accompanied by a booklet at time of purchase. One hundred percent of the net proceeds from Baby Chaba and the book go directly to the Elephant Nature Park so they can help rescue other elephants.

McKean and her daughter were greeted in Chiang Mai by Lek Chailert, an animal rights icon, founder of Elephant Nature Park and the Save Elephant Foundation, and McKean’s personal hero, along with Chailert’s team of conservation and elephant experts. “I’m so appreciative of everything Lek does, because there aren’t many people in the world like her who’ve walked away from comfort to dedicate their entire lives to saving endangered, abused, and majestic animals like these. Beyond the elephants she’s saved, she has also rescued and taken care of over 2,000 cats, 1,000 dogs, monkeys, horses, you name it,” said McKean. 

The pair’s visit consisted of a meticulously-designed program to spotlight the important work of ethical sanctuaries like Elephant Nature Park, which follow 100% humane practices when they rescue and care for hundreds of elephants like Baby Chaba (unlike other less ethical institutions that still use chains and aren’t as invested in the elephants’ well-being). In addition to observing the incredible work that Chailert and her team have done, McKean and her daughter were also exposed to the harsh realities of elephants that have not been as lucky as those thriving at the sanctuaries. Witnessing this abuse firsthand served as a painful but powerful reminder of why The Elephant Project is doing the work it does to help bring an end to such cruelty. 

The Elephant Project is a female-founded philanthropic toy company that has successfully helped save hundreds of elephants worldwide by donating proceeds from hand-designed stuffed animals to aligned organizations that directly benefit the toys’ real-world counterparts. McKean founded the organization in 2017 after a lingering firsthand encounter with neglected baby elephants in Thailand. One hundred percent of net proceeds from any purchase is donated to trusted organizations that help fight the poaching crisis and provide care to injured, abandoned, orphaned, and abused elephants. To date, Kristina and The Elephant Project have helped aid in the rescue and protection of hundreds of elephants, while fostering numerous orphaned elephants and delighting families the world over with their adorable Kiki, Tembo, and Baby Chaba plushies.  

To learn more, make a purchase, or initiate a donation, please visit

Corrections Issued

Editor’s Note: We got it wrong. Our team takes fact checking very seriously, with multiple sets of eyes on each piece, but unfortunately these things happen. The Montecito Journal would like to issue the following corrections:

Jan. 26, Montecito Journal: In the article, “The MPC Shuffle,” First District Supervisor Das Williams was listed as the “Vice Chair” of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors – he is actually the “Chair” of the SBC Board of Supervisors.

Additionally, Susan Keller will be responding in the next MJ to discuss important issues not discussed by either the Board of Supervisors, or this article, concerning the disagreement between herself and the two commissioners.

Jan. 19, Montecito Journal: In the Village Beat segment, “Summerland Beach Remains Closed,” the quoted amount of oil spilled was 200,000 gallons. The amount leaked was 200 gallons – thankfully the leakage was not twice the size of the 1969 oil spill.

In the Editorial, “To Evacuate or Not to Evacuate?”, the County of Santa Barbara was listed as 480,000 square miles. The County size is 3,789 square miles – it is not in fact half the area of the West Coast.


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