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TravelHow to Be an Elephant Friendly Tourist: An Essential Guide

02:10  09 august  2019
02:10  09 august  2019 Source:

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How to be an elephant - friendly tourist : use our simple guide to avoid venues that don't have elephants ’ best interests at heart. Learn more. Be part of the solution. Right now, thousands of elephants around the world are suffering in the name of tourism . But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Elephant - friendly tourism : our guide to avoiding venues that don't have elephants ’ best interests at heart. The best place to see elephants is in the wild. But if you are planning to visit an elephant venue, make sure it allows elephants to be elephants , while informing visitors of their complex needs.

Day after day around the world, countless elephants suffer a bleak existence in the name of tourism.

How to Be an Elephant Friendly Tourist: An Essential Guide© Photo courtesy of Carlinn Meyer Ethical Elephant sanctuaries

From living sad, unnatural lives in captivity to being worked to exhaustion and treated cruelly by handlers at elephant camps that offer rides to streams of visitors throughout Asia, elephants experience inhumane lives that are supported knowingly or unknowingly by tourists.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The non-profit World Animal Protection, long a leader in the effort to improve conditions for elephants around the globe, recently released an “elephant friendly tourist guide,” which should be essential reading for travelers and tour operators everywhere.

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The elephant appears everywhere in Thai culture, a symbol. Despite them being an essential part of Thai culture, elephants are not treated the way you would expect such an important animal to be Overall a super fun, educational, eco- friendly way to learn about elephants and Thailand, cruelty-free.

Elephants are about as friendly as humans. Which means, they can be incredibly friendly . Also horrendously hostile and violent. Testosterone levels in an elephant in musth can be as much as 60 times greater than in the same elephant at other times) is very very dangerous.

To begin with, as the guide critically notes - the best place to see elephants is in the wild where they are roaming free. There are plenty of places around the world to do this including parks throughout Kenya, such as Amboseli National Park.

Kenya in particular, with the extensive, unwavering support of rangers from Big Life Foundation, goes to great lengths to protect elephants. It is one of the few countries in Africa that does not allow trophy hunting and does not engage in the culling of elephants.

If you're going to visit an elephant venue, do your homework and make sure it's a responsible one, not a place that participates in the cruel and inhumane treatment of such incredible animals.

What does a responsible venue look like exactly?

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Since green tourism is booming these days, many companies use eco- friendliness as another way to trick travellers into buying products that aren’t Entering a cage with a tiger high on drugs? Riding an elephant who was previously severely ‘trained’ to obey through beating and keeping in captivity.

Elephant - friendly venues, operating according to best possible welfare, will not allow for any direct tourist - elephant interaction. When minimal contact is allowed, elephant - friendly venues use positive reinforcement whenever possible to manage elephants and to ensure the safety of tourists

As World Animal Protection makes clear - responsible venues are places that allow elephants to be elephants. In other words, they are places where elephants are not offering rides for entertainment or being forced to perform tricks like painting. None of these behaviors are natural for an elephant and in order for an elephant to perform them, the animal has been subjected to a cruel torture process known as phajan.

Responsible elephant venues also make a point of educating visitors on the complex needs of elephants.

And here's another incredibly critical point to understand as a traveler: A venue may call itself a “sanctuary,” “rescue center” or “retirement home” for elephants, but don’t assume that means the venue is a higher welfare facility for the elephant. You still need to do your research before booking.

How to know if the venue is truly a higher welfare facility? World Animal Protection has helpfully compiled the following guidelines:

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However, Thailand’s elephant ‘problem’ is a complex issue. There are thought to be fewer than 5000 elephants left in Thailand, yet a whopping 4000 of Fortunately, there are a small but growing number of elephant refuge centres in Thailand that are employing more sustainable methods to keep tourists

" Elephants are not made to be kept in captivity." Biologist Helena Telkanranta, the Founder and During the introduction to the sanctuary, guides warn visitors to be careful of the bull and to watch Tourists are also told not to show any fear while they're given sugarcane and bananas to feed the

Is Touching Allowed?

Only visit venues where you can look, not touch. Elephants are wild animals that belong in the wild. If a venue allows you to get close enough to ride, bath or touch them, it’s because they’ve been cruelly trained.

Are the elephants behaving like elephants?

If the elephants in a venue are not allowed to freely move and express natural behavior, it’s not the place for you.

Elephants in the wild spend their days roaming long distances, grazing and socializing with other elephants, not confined in small enclosures or forced to perform.

Are there baby elephants there?

They might be cute, but if you can see or touch a baby elephant, especially without its mum, then the venue is not elephant-friendly.

Baby elephants are tourist magnets, but true elephant-friendly venues shouldn’t allow breeding. You shouldn’t be seeing young elephants, except for orphanages where babies are rescued from the wild.

Are the elephants and people safe?

Elephants should always be treated with kindness and respect, and hooks shouldn’t be used unless in a real emergency.

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You can watch more about elephant tourism here, or see more videos about animal welfare, environmentalism and other topics on the We were going into their habitat, and the most important thing was that the whales got to be whales. If they wanted to be whales who swam near us, great.

Elephants are not domesticated animals like cats and dogs; even elephants born in captivity retain So before they’ve carried even one person on their back, an elephant pays a high price for tourists ’ So as a traveller, how do you tell the difference? Here’s World Animal Protection’s guide to making

Being wild animals, captive elephants can be unpredictable and dangerous, especially if they're being crowded. Many tourists and mahouts are injured and killed each year. Even in elephant-friendly venues, you’ll often see mahouts accompanying elephants at a distance, to keep everyone safe.

Even with all of the above guidelines from World Animal Protection, it can still be difficult to find a truly elephant-friendly venue. To make that task easier for tourists, World Animal Protection has identified the following venues that offer the highest level of care for their elephants:



Boon Lott's Elephant Sanctuary

Burm and Emily's Elephant Sanctuary

Elephant Valley Thailand

Global Vision International

Mahouts Elephant Foundation


Elephant Valley Project


Tiger Tops Tharu lodge

If you’re looking for even more proactive ways to help elephants, then make it a point to educate the world about the good and bad elephant venues by leaving reviews on sites like TripAdvisor, becoming a part of the movement to create a better future for elephants.

In addition, you can help spread the word about how to evaluate a responsible venue by sharing this elephant-friendly checklist on social media.

Ultimately, as the World Animal Protection guide so importantly notes – we all have the power to change the world for elephants.

Be a part of the solution.

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