There’s certainly something magical about the idea of riding elephants in Thailand, and who doesn’t want to say: “I went to Thailand and rode an elephant” and post some cool photos on Facebook to show your friends? Unfortunately though, the truth is, riding elephants is not cool, and here’s why…
For thousands of years, elephants have been an important part of Thai culture. Due to their size, strength and powerful trunks, elephants were highly revered as a creature for work and warfare. However, in 1989, the tradition of using elephants in industry ended, mainly due bans imposed on the logging industry. This created huge problems for the elephant handlers and owners (mahouts) who had to find a way to pay for the care and upkeep of their elephants, who require up to 200 kilograms of food a day.
Many mahouts found their only option was to earn money from tourists, through elephant trekking, rides or entertainment. The tourism industry was a viable alternative but it came with bad consequences, with the risk of exploitation when animals and commercialisation meet.
We won’t go into detail, but the sad truth is, we will never support elephant camps in Thailand that provide ‘entertainment’ such as elephant painting or training elephants to dance / sit / stand on two legs. Don’t believe everything you hear – these elephants are mistreated and and their ‘training’ is abusive. Take a look at photos online – the line of scars across the elephant’s foreheads are not there by accident, and may have something to do with the metal spikes the handlers are holding.
We’re happy to say we do support a small selection of Thai elephant sanctuaries who are dedicated to providing elephants with the highest quality-of-life possible. If you’re keen to experience elephants up close, in this kind of environment, check out our 4 day / 3 night Chiang Mai Elephant Experience.
Thanks for your understanding!
– The Crew at Ultimate Thailand
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