How to Interact Ethically With Elephants When Travelling
How to Interact Ethically With Elephants When Travelling
Today I’m sharing with
you one particular cause that matters to me the most since I’m a child : Animal care and the respect of the
As someone that decided
to be “a traveler, a
globetrotter“, there is something that counts so much for me : Avoiding every touristic activity that
generates animals abuse or suffering.
could talk about many different topics regarding this matter, but today I will
open the discussion around Elephants
I also got motivated to write this article with the recent banishment of this cruel activity in Angkor Wat Temple, one of the most touristic attractions of Cambodia. You can learn more about it by clicking on the link.
The purpose of this
article is to put in light what elephants riding involves, what’s behind the
scene of this exotic activity. The reason why this practice still exists is
mostly because of the tourist’s unawareness. There are so many ways to improve
animal conditions around the world, unfortunately, we can’t erase all the
flaws, traffics or abuses that exist.
But avoiding elephants riding, while you are traveling in Africa or Asia, is something that everyone can do, right ? I’ve already referred to this subject in a previous article, 2020 Travel Resolutions, about the importance of choosing our touristic activities.
process, what is it ?
Phajaan, or literally
translated : “crushing the spirit“,
is a cruel process of intensively conditioning the elephants to obey and allow
people to ride them.
This, since their early
ages as baby elephants. It’s a brutal and distressing process where they are
kept in a tiny “cage” to prevent movement, with their legs tied
They are severely
beaten with sharp objects, starved of food and water, which can last for
several days or even weeks, depending on the animal “resistance”.
Half of the elephants don’t even survive through the process. And all of this,
to make them fear humans and to “behave correctly” around tourists.
industry is dangerous ?
elephants is still one of the most popular tourist activities in Asia.
In 2017, a two-year study by World Animal Protection showed that 77% of the 3000 elephants in tourist venues across South East Asia, were living in “severely cruel” and “deeply concerning” conditions. This includes being chained up when not performing, no interaction with other elephants, a poor diet…
The same study observed
a 30% rise in the number of elephants in
tourism venues in Thailand since 2010. Which leads us to a terrible
conclusion : The prevalence of riding perpetuates the industry. It’s actually
increasing demand for captive elephants to be used as tourist attractions,
which means more baby elephants must be captured from the wild, or sometimes
bred for a life in captivity.
Elephants are smart and
sensitive creatures. They should be allowed to live naturally. If they are
forced to display unnatural behaviours, such as being ride, this is done for
tourists’s benefit and the enrichment of the businesses proposing those activities.
How to act ?
As a traveler, or just
someone concerned by this cause, spread the word. People must stop this
activity. Nowadays you can see them and enjoy their companies in different, but
much better ways. For both: you and especially the elephants.
There are heaps of
sanctuaries that are fighting hard to rescue elephants used for tourists’s
entertainment. Be careful of how ethical
is an elephant sanctuary though.
Check the reviews, the
pictures, do some research… If you are on-site, ask the locals about it
(receptionist of your guesthouse for example), if it is a “good”
sanctuary not proposing elephant trekking.
And if you find out
that a sanctuary is offering elephants riding, write a review, share it with
the locals and other travelers you can meet during your trip.
Information here is our most powerful tool. We
have a voice, let’s use it.
A day in an
elephant rescue centre
In 2017, I’ve been
spending an entire day in an elephant sanctuary while I was in Thailand and I
can’t find the words to tell you how great this experience was.
Elephant Jungle Paradise is located
a bit further up north of Chiang Mai, in the north of Thailand. They had 4
elephants over there that they rescued over the last 10 years from elephant
trekking’s tours in National Parks. It’s a small family sanctuary, that’s why
they had only 4. But they are working on “upgrading” their facilities
to rescue more elephants.
The owner showed us his
humble rescue centre, introduced us to his family and then to his elephants.
We’ve been approaching them slowly, to adapt them to our presence. Then, one by
one, we went closer to them. After half an hour, we could all come around to
help the staff feeding them.
Later, we brought them
into their own “mud spa”, which was simply a really muddy playground. The owner explained to us how
important it was to cover their injuries with the mud and let it dry to help
the cicatrisation of their wounds. Plus, it’s a great way to protect those
wounds against the flies that can infect it.
At this stage, the
elephants started slowly to trust us, you could feel a bond. One was even
willing to let us kiss his trump. Once the mud dried on their skins, we brought
them down to a river, through an awesome walk in the jungle. There, we could
rinse them in the water and that’s where they began to play with us.
That was one of the most emotional moments I
ever lived while traveling.
At some point, we had
to bring them up again and let them rest, while we had lunch all together. On
the afternoon, the owner brought us in the surroundings of the centre and
showed us some medicinal plants he was using to treat the elephants or even his
family when someone was sick.
And then came the
moment to say goodbye to our dear elephants. On the way back to Chiang Mai, we
were completely astonished by the day we just had and those incredible moments
we shared with the elephants. This feeling after this day in a sanctuary was priceless,
on top of not involving any abuse, it’s also such a greater experience to live.
We are Camille & Pedro, a Franco-Brazilian couple. Currently starring in our own travel reality show, we would love to bring you along in our adventurous universe. We’ve been both experiencing solo traveling and are now keeping this nomad lifestyle as a couple. On our blog, we are sharing our adventures around the world, offering tips & creating travel guides for other wanderers.