Thailand Elephant Friendly Tours
Why Riding Elephants in Thailand is Bad for the Elephants
For many people, when they think about having a holiday in Thailand, they want a picture of themselves riding an elephant. Ten years ago, when I first arrived in Thailand, I was the same. But, now I am more educated about the “Elephant Industry”, and would like to change your mind about how to spend time with these gentle giants.
Firstly, there are two main reasons why riding elephants in Thailand is wrong.
- It is bad for the elephant.
- It continues an income stream which thereby perpetuates the industry staying “stuck”.
BBC recently published this article Elephant Tourism is ‘Fuelling Cruelty’ in its Science & Environment section. In this article, they state:
“There is an urgent need for tourist education and regulation of wildlife tourist attractions worldwide. Venues that offer tourists a chance to watch elephants in genuine sanctuaries are beacons of hope that can encourage the urgently-needed shift in the captive elephant tourism industry.”
The logic is that if tourists are aware of how riding elephants is bad, they will choose another activity. And, I wholeheartedly agree. So, let’s take a quick look at the reasons why elephant riding gets a bad rap.
1. When they’re babies, elephants are taken from their mothers and families in the wild.
2. The babies are tied down and beaten with bullhooks and other instruments designed to inflict pain until their spirits are broken and they’re willing to obey their “trainers” to avoid pain.
3. Researchers have found that elephants who are subjected to this “breaking” or “crush” process often develop post-traumatic stress disorder.
4. Elephants in nature live in matriarchal herds in which they forage for fresh vegetation, play, bathe in rivers, and travel many miles a day, in captivity, they cannot have this lifestyle.
5. When they aren’t working, the animals are usually kept in sheds or shacks—often with concrete floors that damage their legs—and they’re bound by chains that can be so tight they can barely move.
6. Captive elephants are routinely denied nutritious food, adequate water, and needed veterinary care, especially for their feet.
7. The lack of exercise and long hours spent standing on hard surfaces are major contributors to serious foot problems, arthritis, and back injuries. Most captive elephants die decades short of their normal lifespan.
8. Serious tourist injuries occur every year and go unreported by elephant riding companies.
9. Even though some elephant centers have changed their name, the old practices still go on. It is important to do your research and make sure that the center you are visiting is cruelty-free.
Now you know why this industry is so upsetting to the elephants, but what we need to do next is to consider the economy. If poor cultures have an opportunity to make money, they will not likely change their behavior. However, if the income stream dries out from lack of demand, they will be forced to move into more ethical treatments of Elephants, and, offer more sustainable practices that are kinder to the animals.
How to Choose Another Elephant Activity
We understand that you would like to spend time with elephants, so, we will urge you to do just that. Spend time with the elephants. There are many activities you can do other than riding them, you can:
- Learn about the elephants
- Feed the elephants
- Bathe them, and play with them in the water
- Take a walk with your elephant
All of these activities allow you to feel the sense of nature you are seeking, and do not contribute to harming the elephants in any way. Seeking out local Elephant Sanctuaries and doing a bit of research will go a long way towards changing the elephant industry, and making more ecological travel choices.
The Better Way of Spending Time With Elephants
We love elephants and want to offer trips that allow travelers to learn more about these beautiful creatures. Thankfully, we are not the only ones that feel the need to protect elephants from abusive practices. More and more camps are seeing the signs: new camps are exploring ways to give both guests and animals a positive experience and even some traditional camps are changing their ways.
We are constantly inspecting new camps to find the best responsible options for our guests. One of the highlights that has grown out of the close cooperation with a formerly “traditional” camp is the Elephant Care and Paper Making – program. We are proud to be offering this unique experience exclusively to our partners.
While we do not yet have a “real” sanctuary similar to the Elephant Sanctuary Ao Nang, Travelife-certified Baan Chang from Chaing Mai has now opened a branch close to Krabi! We have partnered with them to operate our Elephant Experience – Half day program. On this tour, you will learn more about the feeding and care of elephants, as well as getting the opportunity to walk with and even bathe with your elephant! Check it out now!
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