Spending time with elephants is on every traveller’s bucket list. Although, you have to be aware of certain things. In South East Asia, elephants are often considered as tourist attractions and money makers. Wash elephants, don’t ride them!
Elephants are not supposed to be ridden for several reasons. They’re wild animals, so, in order to be ridden, they need to be tamed. In other words, they’re tortured until they listen. Young elephants are taken away from their moms, beaten and starved… They’re put in really small cages until they are unable to move and destroyed to the point of losing all their identities and not contesting the authority. The mistreatment doesn’t stop once they’re tamed, because the fear of being beaten is used to control them. In addition to all this, their spines are not the same as horses or humans : their bodies can’t stand more than 150 kg. Considering that the sitting equipment weights itself 160 kg and they carry 3 to 6 tourists… I let you do the maths. They’re physically and mentally destroyed.
While trekking camps are torturing them, some nature parks opened to rescue them and raise awareness about how they’re treated. I went to Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand. This is an ethical and sustainable eco-tourism project rescuing old tortured elephants to offer them a peaceful life with enough food, space, medical assistance and most importantly freedom.
Visitors can do a lot of fun activities, like feeding them with fruits and some balls recipes the guide teaches you. You can also play in the mud with them, go on walks and even get into the river to help wash them! This was by far the most magical moment. When you arrive, a special shirt is given to you so elephants can recognize the smell. These animals are so friendly and chatty, don’t be afraid. The guide will also tell you a lot of precious informations about the elephant’s lives, history, habits… Their goals are multiple and raising awareness is the most important one.
So please, if you’re going to South Asia, be aware of everything that’s happening to make a responsible choice!
You can check out my Thailand video right here ↓