Making sure your elephant trip is ethical

Elephant sanctuaries are a popular tourist attraction in Thailand and there are hundreds of different ones that offer up close elephant interactions. But how can you make sure that you are visiting somewhere where the elephants are being treated well? Here’s some things to consider from my own experience.

In Thailand there are elephant sanctuaries and elephant camps that attract large numbers of tourists daily. But what’s the difference? Elephant camps hold shows where elephants are used for entertainment. Tourists pay to see elephants that are taught to do tricks or get a chance to ride on their backs. Betwren tourists visiting, the elephants are kept in chains and are beaten so that they perform tricks on command. The conditions they are kept in and the nature of their work means that the elephants often get sick. It’s really upsetting but if you would like to know more you can read about it here.

Unfortunately due to public awareness of animal cruelty, there are many plaves advertised as sanctuaries where the conditions are very much the same.

So when I began to look for an experience, I was extremely wary. I researched different sanvtuaries and read a lot of reviews, before I eventually booked myself into a full day trip to Chiang Mai Mountain Sanctuary.

I had an amazing day. The trip consisted of feeding the elephants, learning about elephant care, making some digestive medicine for the elephants (brown sugar, tumeric, banana and a special herb that acts as a laxative to help them when they have eaten too much mud while playing), walking with the elephants to the mud baths and then bathing with the elephants in the river.

It was a wonderful chance to spend time with these besutiful creatures and the staff helped provide a really educational experience.

The staff were inceedibly knowledgeable about their elephants. I met a 60 year old elephant who is blind in one eye, a 35 year old elephant who is scared of the other elephants so tends to hide away and a very enegertic baby elephant called Jackie Chan who eats a lot very fast and often spits it back out at you to play a game!

The staff explained that all of the elephants in this sanctuary were bought from nearby camps to rescue them from the mistreatment. Many of them come to the sanctuary very sick because they have not been given proper vetinary treatment. However, this is the only part of the experience I am slightly conflicted about. It’s great that they rescue these elphants, but isn’t buying them from the camps just giving money to people that promote animal cruelty? Is it helping those people to fund further mistreatment of elephants?

I never doubted for one second that the sanctuary I visited doesn’t care for the elephants well. All of the activities in the day were following the elephants routine and the visitors to the camp were only assisting staff in caring for the elephants.

It is so important to consider the ethical implications of your travel, especially when it comes to animal experiences. I love animals and I would hate to think that anything I have done while travelling has supported animal cruelty. Make sure you do your research to avoid experiences that do more harm than good. If anyone is interested in the trip I went on, it’s the Chiang Mai Mountain Sanctuary which you can find here.




4 thoughts on “Making sure your elephant trip is ethical

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    1. Thank you. It’s really important to me and I think it’s so difficult to identify the genuine companies out here. I nearly got scammed into booking an elephant camp while trying to find a sanctuary, so I’d like to help others avoid that.

  1. I love elephants so much! They are such beautiful, gentle giants and it really upsets me that anyone could be cruel to them, or any animal for that matter! I’m so glad you were able to find somewhere that is safe for the elephants to have interaction and experiences with people! This was a great post and I’d love to go help the elephants one day 🐘

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