Spending time with Elephants is an experience on many people’s bucket lists, myself included.
There are few better places than Thailand to get up close with these great animals. Here’s everything you need to know about seeing Elephants in Thailand including some important truths about elephant tourism.
The Truth About Treks
For many of us when we think about visiting Elephants in Thailand we think of intrepid jungle treks where we get to spend time riding these magnificent animals. It’s a little known fact however that Elephant’s spines are not designed to hold the weight of humans, and being subjected to carrying tourists day in day out can lead to serious long term problems and injuries.
Don’t Contribute To Cruelty
The elephant tourism industry in Thailand is thriving because all foreign visitors want to ride Elephants, watch them perform tricks and are prepared to pay handsomely for the privilege, unaware of the cruelty they are supporting.
Illegal capture and trading of elephants for use in the tourism industry is a serious problem, as is the cruel training methods employed by captors to tame them. Baby elephants, ripped from their mothers are subjected to some brutal and inhumane training methods to train them, being confined to tiny spaces and pierced with sharp bull hooks.
Don’t Be Fooled
Grown elephants you see on treks may seem perfectly happy and relaxed but handlers will always be carrying bull-hooks to control them, and it’s the fear of these that keeps the elephants in check; they don’t forget the cruel punishment they’ve been subjected to.
Not only is this cruel for the animals but its also unsafe for you too; occasionally elephants will rebel against their handlers and the methods used to keep them under control, with potentially dangerous consequences. Only in February this year a British Tourist was killed by an Elephant on a Trek in Koh Samui after it attacked its handler when being punished for not following instructions.
Shun the offers for treks and circus tricks and instead visit the Elephant Nature Parks . The largest park is in Chang Mai but there are other locations to see Elephants in Thailand including Kanchanburi in West Thailand and Surin to the East.
The parks are jungle sanctuaries which care for many elephants bought or rescued from their use in exploitive tourism. When visiting you can spend time with these amazing animals in their natural habitats, walking with them, feeding them, watching them play and even washing them in the river.
The elephants are left to roam the 250 acres of the park in their families and there is no elephant riding or bull hooks in sight.
Make It Happen
The parks offer various day trips or longer stays with a range of itineraries and prices. (Full options here). The full day visits cost 6000 Thai Baht which is around £115 and this includes collection and drop off from your local hotel with lunch provided. Tickets can be booked online on the official Elephant Nature Park Website.
So while an elephant trek may appear to treat the animals well and will be cheaper than the full day visits, remember the background to these and think twice before riding an elephant. Spending time with Elephants in Thailand is a once in a life time experience and the sanctuary visits in my opinion are well worth the money.
Don’t forget that these organisations are all non-profit which use the funds from visits to care for the animals and the less then 2000 Elephants in Thailand that live in the wild.
Have you spent time with Elephants in Thailand? Have you visited any of the sanctuaries mentioned? Get involved and leave a comment below!