Karl Cullen first volunteered at The Elephant Nature Park, Thailand in 2002, spending four months with Hope and Ging Mai, two orphan calves who had recently been rescued at 18 months and 3 days old respectively. Fortunate enough to be offered a permanent position, Karl returned in 2003 and took on the role of mahout ( elephant handler and caregiver ) to an older bull elephant named Maximus – widely considered to be one of the the tallest elephants in Thailand.

In the time before his full time return in 2003, Ging Mai, at only nine months of age, had tragically passed away. Hope, who had most certainly come to view the younger Ging Mai as his little brother, moved to the larger part of the park where he was immediately embraced by the adult elephants there; most notably Mae Perm, Jokia and a little later, Mae Somboon, who doted on him as much as his lost mother.

Karl spent the next 5 years living in Max’s company, watching Hope grow amongst a growing herd of 30+ elephants at the park. During that time, after promising his 3 year old nephew Finn, that he would write him a book for his next birthday, he spent one sunny afternoon writing the story of Elephant Dreams, and the next two weeks putting illustrations to the story. Excited by the experience, he soon started on another story, continuing the adventures of Hope, which soon took on a life of its own and became the 282 page novel with the unwieldy title of Elephant Kingdom – The Search for the Giant Sun Throwing Elephant.

In 2008, Karl left the Elephant Nature Park to explore the wider world of elephants and took a position at Australia Zoo with the 3 resident elephants there. It was only 6 months later that he was contacted by Wildlife SOS in India who, with the help of the government there, were setting up a new elephant sanctuary modelled on Elephant Nature Park. Seeing another opportunity for adventure, Karl quickly accepted their proposal and landed in Delhi soon after. He spent the next 8 months there, experiencing the challenge of life in the most densely populated city in the world, working with the monkeys, dogs, horses, donkeys, cats, birds etc. at the WSOS Gurgaon sanctuary, seeing his first wild elephant in the jungles of Nepal and more again in the parks of Southern India, while all the time disagreements between WSOS and the state government escalated to the point that all agreed it was best to pull out of the project before they became involved in something none of us agreed with.

Sad to leave India and unsure of what was next, Karl returned to Australia. It was while waiting 7 months in Melbourne for a US visa to take a position at an elephant sanctuary across the Pacific that he finally got around to doing something more with the two books he had written. Finding an online self-publisher to his liking he set the books in to a format to his liking and they were soon available for sale online both with the publisher and at Amazon.com. Soon after, he put full page watercolour illustrations to a poem about elephants he had written some time earlier, and his third book, to be an Elephant, was born.

At the time of writing, Karl has passed on the opportunity to take work in the U.S. but is now poised to return to Elephant Nature Park to begin working with the 12 month old bull calf, Chang Yim. When possible he will post updates on all things related – and many things not!

Feel free to subscribe to receive all posts.

While in India, Karl had received notice that Max had taken ill, and was on the next flight to Thailand. He arrived that afternoon, and the next morning Max passed away. At that moment he decided

that the best way to honour Max’s life would be to write his story. That work is already underway and will hopefully appear here within the next 12 months. Until then, I hope you enjoy the 3 books on offer and the regular posts from amongst the elephants and dogs of Thailand

If you would like to know more, please feel free to contact Karl by email at kcullen75@gmail.com


  1. What a beautiful story, for a man to delicate his whole life, to such. Amazing, intelligent, wonderful, animals, I have only had a brief encounter with a couple of elephants in thailand.an elephant sanctuary, it was always a dream to touch and see elephants, and to ride on one, and I shared that expperiance with my husband.and that is something that I will never ever forget, and karl, I think you do an amazing job. With the elephants. I wish thad I could do it again. Maybe one day.

  2. Oh, no, I’m so sorry to learn of Karl’s passing. If it’s not too intrusive to ask, how did it happen? He was so young!

  3. Thank you Karl for all you did for elephants, your books and deep care. Your passing at 38 is a tragedy and you will be missed by Elephants and those who love them, both.

    • So very sorry to hear this sad news. Such a gifted and insightful writer and an innately good soul who did amazing things in such a tragically short life. Life just isn’t fair. I hope you are reunited with your beloved Max and Kane. I still can’t quite believe it.

    • Still can’t quite belief Karl is not with us anymore. He was such a wonderful soul. I loved watching him with Max at ENP and I like to visualize that they are now in each others company where ever that might be.

    • does anybody know the cause of his death?…privacy was requested on Facebook and now all mention of him is gone. ~ I have been trying to get info and it’s almost like he did not exist with the exception of this site ~ sad 😦

  4. I personally was initially seeking for techniques for my very own
    blog and noticed your blog, “Elephant Dreaming”, would you mind in case I personally utilize
    a handful of of your own points? Appreciate it ,Abraham

    • Hi Abraham.
      I have no issue with you using any of my points from my blog. If you are going to name my blog or me personally, that’s fine but I would prefer it if you let me know how I was being referenced. If not, that’s ok, freedom of speech and all of that!
      I’m interested what your blog is all about?

  5. Karl,
    thoroughly enjoyed reading Yim’s updates and your heartfelt opinions on the human elephant situations that you encounter. i would like to apologise if at any point i crossed the line or even slightly interfered with the elephants in a touristy or just irritating manner. Your words were so true and hopefully that will be in the future for the park.
    I have just ordered Elephant Kingdom but unfortunately won’t receive it for a couple of months. will definitely promote it for you when i can say i’ve actually read it!
    Looking forward to your next entry hopefully including the RC fiasco and i’m hoping to make an appointment with the lady in Bentleigh some time.
    Thanks for allowing us to join your lunch and dinner conversation, all the best

    • Nothing to apologise for Tegan. Thanks for ordering my book, I hope you really enjoy it, but sorry it will take so long. Normally it’s quicker than that.
      Stay in touch. perhaps see you when you get back, and maybe by then I’ll have a commission for you 😉

  6. Hi Karl

    Wow, amazing work and passion you have and hope you never give it up. I recently was at the ENP with power of one and to be able to experience a little of your life there has really opened up my heart even more and got me falling in love with them. I have shared the elephants stories and pictures with all the kids in South Africa (Botshabelo) and they all giggle in delight and guess understand the elephants hearts. Keep inspiring and look forward to your posts.

  7. Love to hear more about your writing and Chang Yim.
    Keep up the good work.


  8. I am happy that you are back at the Park. I will be at the Park after Thanksgiving. I will bring my little movie which I dedicated to Max.I hope I can show it to you.
    Chang Yim was born shortly after I left so I have yet to meet him.

  9. Karl,
    So happy to hear your return to ENP is immanent, and am looking forward to the Blog entries.
    BTW – I love the newest book!! (Oh! I told you that already, didn’t I?)

  10. Lov, luv, luv. Please add me too please! Now must get back to my good ‘ele’ books…….thanks Karl!

    • You just gotta put your email address into the “subscribe” button on the side of the page I think Lee.
      Enjoy the books!!

  11. I love reading of your adventures Karl, and I can’t wait to read your book on Max.Good that you are going back to ENP, keep up the good work !!! All the best,…Maureen

  12. Hi Karl
    Loving the website and so glad you’ve finally got round to publishing your books. Who said there for Kids I’d loved the one I read back at ENP, still I always was (am) a big kid…. have fun with Chang Yim think you’ll have your hands full there. So from the largest Elephant in Thailand to one of the small one’s eh, still size isn’t everything…. take care mate.
    Andy & Vanessa

  13. Keep writing!!! Wonderful to be able to read what you have to share.
    Warm Rumbles – Elke

  14. I just LOOOOVE what you’re doing, Karl! So happy to hear you’re going back to the ENP… Hope you will love it as you always did. Give us some news! I will bring Oscar as soon as he’s older enough and I really hope you’ll still be there!! Congrats for your books. Will definetely try to find them. All my best wishes. Delphine

  15. It was great to read your blog Karl. For my family and I to spend time with the elephants, you, Michelle. and all the others at ENP changed us all. My kids still talk about it and that was 4 years ago.

    Ii love following what you are doing. Rarely do I see people following their passion in life – but you certainly have!

    Always the best,


  16. Please add me to your email list! You are doing lovely, important work, Karl, and I can’t wait to read your book about Max.


    • Thanks Kelly. If you subscribe on the website you’ll get all the posts I put on once I get back to ENP; hopefully next month.
      Take care.

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