Elephants are wise, social and very family oriented. They feel pain, sadness, happiness, grief and more. They form strong intimate bonds between family members and friends. When they are violently abducted and brutally trained, you can only imagine what they must feel. Research has been done showing that elephants in captivity suffer from chronic mental and physical illness, which leads to a premature death.
Before an elephant allows a person to ride them, they have to be “broken down”, or “phajaan” as the Thai call it. It means to break their will and spirit. As baby elephants, they are beaten, starved, chained and deprived of social interaction. They are confined and some are put into small holes in the ground, to suffer until their “spirit is broken” and they submit. This is elephant cruelty, sadly, it makes it easier to control and train them.
LOGGING, BEGGING & TREKKING
In 2014, the Thai government passed the first law to protect animals including the elephant, protecting them from logging and begging. If you see any of this in Thailand please report to the Thai authorities!
1. Logging elephants is illegal, making them carry and transport logs.
2. Using elephants to beg or make money on the streets is illegal.
3. Trekking with elephants, riding on them, is sadly still LEGAL. PLEASE DON’T SUPPORT THIS!
If you have already rode on an elephant, and are only now realizing that elephant cruelty exists, it’s ok. We’re all human and make mistakes. What matters is that you are informed and aware NOW, so spread your awareness and make better choices based on your morals for future experiences.
What is elephant trekking? Elephant trekking is the process of riding elephants through wild areas, usually on trekking chairs.
The trekking chair or “howdahs”, is horrible for their backs and spines. Most trekking chairs can fit up to 4 adults and the elephant is overloaded with weight, which causes immense pressure on his/her back. This can cause spinal injuries to the elephant, as they shouldn’t hold a lot of weight.
Trekking for long hours cause exhaustion and dehydration for the poor elephants. In addition, the trekking chairs rub against the elephants back and can cause blisters, which may become infected. There is also potential that elephants may spread diseases such as tuberculosis to its rider.
Accidents happen. What if an elephant snaps and charges off with some kids on its back, then what? There are stories of tourists getting injured from trekking accidents, all around the world. Plain and simple, elephants are not made to ride.
SCAM ELEPHANT SANCTUARIES
Lets start with saying not every elephant “sanctuary” is what it claims to be. Many Asian countries including Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and more, are notorious for having scam sanctuaries that may claim they are caring for the animals, but sadly are not. Therefore, elephant cruelty may not be evident to tourists, so please do your research and look at what they offer.
It is difficult to tell what goes on behind the scenes, but if the sanctuary is offering elephant rides, trekking, making elephants do tricks etc., then a red light must go off in your head.
It is true that many sanctuaries require tourism for monetary reasons, to be able to care for the elephants, such as buying all the food an elephant eats. An adult elephant eats 200-600 lbs of food a day! Multiply that by how many elephants the sanctuary has and that equals a lot of food! So support the sanctuaries that are truly compassionate for these gentle giants.
REPUTABLE ELEPHANT SANCTUARIES IN THAILAND
Some reputable, ethical elephant sanctuaries in Thailand are:
- Elephant Nature Park– located near Chiang Mai, more info CLICK HERE
- Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary – located outside of Baan Tuek, 5-6 hours north of Bangkok by bus, or fly into Sukhothai, more info CLICK HERE
- Wildlife Friends Foundation– all kinds of animals including elephants, located 2 and a half hours from Bangkok, more info CLICK HERE
- Elephants World – located outside city of Kanchanaburi, about 2 and a half hours from Bangkok, more info CLICK HERE
I was able to experience the overnight program at Elephant World and was very grateful for my ethical experience.
Support these amazing sanctuaries! Take a look on their sites and you will find links on ways to support their organization.
Knowledge is power. Remember to look for the sanctuaries that emphasize learning about the animals, feeding and bathing them. These options actually help the elephants and can be a great learning experience! Think about what type of organization you want your money to support. The choice is yours.
THANK YOU FOR READING! Feel free to leave me a comment down below. – Val Pal