CAN PEOPLE RIDE ELEPHANTS? ⛔️ REASONS WHY YOU SHOULDN’T!
Remember when we talked about sustainable tourism? Well, today we bring you an example that you should always keep in mind, for example, if you travel to Southeast Asia, keep reading!
Reasons not to ride elephants!
The elephant training
This tradition has long been accepted in Thai culture. This method of training is used to train elephants for the tourism industry.
Young elephants are taken from their mothers and confined in a small place, where they are mistreated with hooks and spiked bamboo sticks… They are also starved and deprived of sleep, to crush their spirit and makes them submissive to humans.
This is an accepted practice in Thailand, and many of the elephants seen in trekking camps have been subjected to this horrific process. However, this isn’t the only reason why you should give up elephant riding, although we know it’s already a good reason too!
Elephants’ spines cannot support the bodyweight of people and riding all day can lead to permanent spinal injuries. In addition, carrying a saddle on their backs can lead to other complications.
Elephants are very similar to humans: They have families and friends, they socialize, feel pain, happiness, and sorrow! When they are in trekking camps, they don’t usually socialize with other elephants. In some camps, they live their lives essentially in solitary confinement, and this means that psychologically they are also very affected.
Elephant calves are chained to their mothers during walks, which can cause them harm, as they must keep up with their mother as she walks. These baby elephants cannot stop to rest or nurse, as they must keep walking. To keep up, the guide (mahout) pushes the elephants with a bullhook to keep them moving. The bullhook, which the elephants remember from their torture during phajaan, can immediately instill fear in them. This fear can create a reaction that hurts the elephants, and the riders.
After the trek, the elephants aren’t fed or given enough water, and are kept chained! Many travelers have reported seeing elephants swaying, pacing, and bobbing their heads in trekking camps, signs of severe psychological stress.
Don’t believe everything you hear
If a tour operator offers anything other than time with elephants or any type of elephant walk, avoid it. If an elephant ‘sanctuary’ or wildlife park offers elephant rides, circuses, or painting shows, you can be sure that the elephants have suffered terrible abuse to get where they are!
Although some places may promote their experience as “elephant friendly” and say they don’t use bullhooks, the fact that elephants are being used for trekking means they are being harmed.
What are the alternatives?
Don’t worry, if your dream is to see elephants, there are ethical places and sanctuaries where travelers can see how the elephants live in the forest and how they interact among them.
For example, you can visit ChangChill in Chiang Mai, an enclosure that used to offer interaction with elephants such as bathing and riding but has now changed its model with the support of World Animal Protection, so now visitors can observe the elephants from a safe distance, watching them graze and socialize but they do not encourage visitors to interact with them.
The Elephant Nature Park, an elephant foundation, and Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary in northern Thailand are two other reputable places where human-elephant interaction doesn’t compromise their safety.
But how can we recognize legit and ethical elephant sanctuaries? It’s easy! Are you able to ride, touch, hold or swim with them? Are the elephants forced to perform tricks? Then you shouldn’t trust that place. Nevertheless, the World Animal Protection has a sanctuary checklist you can visit before planning your trip! 😉